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MITHRAISM 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 



COMPARATIVE RELIGION 
Second Edition. 3s. 6d. net. 

Uniform with this Volume 

NEOPLATONISM, SELECT PASSAGES ILLUSTRATING 

Translated with an Introduction by E. R. Dodds, B.A. 

55. net. 



LONDON: S.P.C.K. 



SELECT 
PASSAGES ILLUSTRATING 

MITHRAISM 



TRANSLATED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, 
BY THE REV. 

A. S. GEDEN, D.D. 



LONDON 
SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING 
CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE 

NEW YORK AND TORONTO: THE MACMILLAN CO. 

Printed in Great Britain 
I925 



PREFACE 

.The Greek and Latin writers of the early Christian 
centuries make not infrequent reference to Mithraism 
as a religious and social force within the Roman Empire. 
Their accounts, however, are neither so full nor so 
sympathetic as might be desired. The passages here 
translated are for the most part those published by 
Cumont in his great work; but for complete under- 
standing they need the illustrations and engravings 
which his larger book so lavishly provides, and in a less 
degree the English translation, Mysteries of Mithra. 
The texts, arranged as far as possible in chronological 
order, are in themselves not always free from difficulty, 
and in some instances no doubt have been imperfectly 
copied and transmitted. A few years ago also, A. 
Dieterich published at Paris and Berlin, in a second 
edition, Eine Mithrasliturgie, with a German translation. 
There is, however, in reality little, if anything, to 
connect the so-called " liturgy " with the cult of Mithra, 
and it did not seem worth while to offer a rendering in 
English. To a considerable extent it consists of general 
invocations, magical phrases and words, letters strung 
together without meaning, relying for their efficacy 
upon sound not sense, such as are commonly employed 
in primitive religious incantations. It is possible, 



VI 



PREFACE 



though it does not appear probable, that similar recita- 
tions were in use in the service of Mithra. They are 
not confined to any one land or people, but are a uni- 
versal accompaniment of demonolatry and fetichism. 

The brief introduction is intended merely to serve 
the purpose of elucidating and providing a background 
for the passages translated. For the early history of 
Christianity the growth and wide influence of the 
religions of Asia Minor and of Egypt are of unique 
importance. Their interaction was far more intimate 
than is perhaps generally realised. And behind the 
faiths of the Nearer East lay the great religions of 
India and more distant Asia, linked by a community 
of thought and intercourse, the details of which it is 
probably impossible at this distance of time to unravel. 
The science and study of comparative religion are only 
at the beginning of the service which they are able to 
render to the religious thought and sympathy and 
intelligence of mankind. 



A. S. Geden. 



Harpenden, 
October, 1924. 



MITHRAISM 



INTRODUCTION 

The most serious rival of Christianity within the 
Roman Empire in the early centuries of our era was 
Mithraism, the worship of the deathless and glorified 
Sun Less extravagant than most of the cults which, 
from the nearer East, had flooded Rome with strange 
gods and stranger rites, it made like them a strong 
emotional appeal to the worshipper. And the more 
sober and thoughtful elements of Roman society found 
in its teaching present consolation in trouble, and an 
assurance of a bright future beyond the narrowly drawn 
limits of this life. Doctrines of a similar character 
were professed and taught in most, if not in all of the 
Eastern faiths that had migrated to the West ; and it 
was this responsiveness to the longing of the human 
heart which gave them such power and permanence as 
they possessed over and above the gorgeous and attrac- 
tive ritual which they set up. Christianity sympathized 
with these truths, and in purer form enforced them in 
her teaching and had made them an essential part of 
her creed. Widely divergent therefore as were the 
faith and worship of the Christ from the Mithraic cult, 
there underlay the rites and ceremonies of the latter, 
which to us often appear uncouth and grotesque, a 
doctrine and truth which was illuminative and uplifting. 



2 MITHRAISM 

And it was this element which gave to the creed its 
persuasive and enduring power. 

To the student of history, however, it appears strange 
that in the literary sources of the early Christian cen- 
turies, and in the writings of Christian apologists and 
commentators, references to Mithraism are comparatively 
few, and there seems to be inadequate recognition of the 
serious menace which its extension and popularity 
offered to the supremacy of the Christian faith. In 
view of the very large number of Mithraic sanctuaries 
which are known to have existed within the Roman 
Empire, it is hardly possible to interpret this silence in 
the sense that the menace was not so real as it appears 
to us to have been, or the rivalry so acute. The latter 
is probably true ; partly for the reason that Christianity 
was, and had been since the days of the Apostle Paul, a 
religion of the cities. It found its strength in the 
population of the townships, in Rome itself, in the 
capital cities of Greece and France, of Africa and of 
the Provinces generally. Mithraism was the religion of 
the army and followed the troops in the garrison towns 
and the great cantonments on the borders of the Empire. 
The officers and soldiers were its supporters, and into 
the circles in which the Christian propaganda so success- 
fully wrought the faith of Mithra made little attempt 
apparently to enter. The contact between the two 
religions was therefore, at least in the earlier period, 
not so intimate as has sometimes been represented, and 
the opportunities of mutual interference or conflict were 
rare. The Christian thinkers and apologists cannot 
have been ignorant of the powerful hold which Mithraism 
had established within the Empire. They do not seem, 
however, to have recognised fully the danger to which 
their own position and claims were exposed by its 



INTRODUCTION 



attractiveness and success. Until with the accession 
of the Emperor Julian (360 a.d.) there came a brief 
era of reaction, and for a time Mithra was triumphant. 

Ethically and religiously the strong attraction which 
Mithraism, in common with other cults of the Orient, 
exercised on the peoples of the Roman Empire was due 
essentially to two elements upon which their thought 
and teaching laid stress. It was not all pomp and 
rhetoric, strange rite and elaborate symbolism. An 
attempt at least was made to respond to the craving of 
the human heart for rest from the consciousness of sin, 
and to unfold a reasonable and reasoned doctrine of a 
life beyond the grave. The official Roman paganism 
had no assurance to give in regard to these great matters 
of capital importance as far as the ordinary citizen was 
concerned, however true it might be that the Emperor, 
even before his death, was enrolled in the pantheon of 
the unageing gods. Mithraism offered to its votaries a 
way to the forgiveness of sins, by which the conscious- 
ness of guilt might be removed, the sting of remorse 
drawn, and the peace and joy of innocence regained. 
And in all its symbolism and teaching it assumed and 
emphasized the continuity of life through and beyond 
death. To the devout Mithraist death did not end all, 
in a blank wall of ignorance and night. He was offered 
a sure hope of resurrection. As the grain of wheat 
renewed its life in the dark ground, and blossomed forth 
into the living ear; and as Mithra himself, the lord of 
light, issued forth each morning to recommence a 
glorious life which the deadening shades of night had 
only interrupted not destroyed ; so for the believer, the 
initiate, there was the assurance that death was not the 
final issue of life, that the revival which nature every- 
where experienced was a promise and pledge of his own, 



MITHRAISM 



and in the confidence that he would live again he might 
take comfort. 

That these doctrines and the ritual forms in which 
they found expression were not without their effect, 
probably unconscious, upon the teaching and language 
of some at least of the later Christian apologists and 
teachers may be regarded as established. It is possible, 
on the other hand, although perhaps not likely, that 
Christian ideas and sentiments made their way into the 
Mithraic cult, and were adopted in Mithraic rites. With 
all that they held in common, however, the creeds were 
yet essentially independent and distinct ; the debt on 
either side, if debt there were, was in form and detail 
only; and morally the superiority of the Christian 
teaching was great and incontestable. According to 
some writers also there are references to Mithraic doc- 
trine in the Epistles of St. Paul and in the Apocalypse. 
It is not impossible that this should be so. The evidence, 
however, is inconclusive and is differently interpreted. 
St. Paul himself in later life, or the author of the Reve- 
lation, may have come into contact with Mithraism, 
and have been impressed by the dangers to which the 
Church was exposed by its insidious teaching. Other 
Oriental cults, however, were at least as active and 
prominent within the Roman Empire in the first century 
of our era; and their relations to one another and to 
Christian teaching are not a little obscure. 

Name and Origin, — Like the faith itself the name of 
Mithra is of Oriental origin. In the ancient sacred 
books of India and of Iran, Mithra (Mitra) is the sun, 
deified and reverenced, and a solar cult under this 
name would seem to have been part of the joint religious 
heritage which the two great nations or families of 
nations carried with them from their ancient home. 



INTRODUCTION 5 

In India the name, though not the cult, was early super- 
seded by other and more popular forms of the sun-god. 
It was otherwise in Persia and the nearer East. It is 
true that in the Gathas, the oldest metrical portions of 
the Avesta, the name does not occur— perhaps inten- 
tionally removed— but in the later parts of the sacred 
books it becomes increasingly prominent, and there 
are some indications that Mithra occupied in ancient 
times a position of supremacy, a " father of gods and 
men," to whom all other deities were subordinated. 
As early as the fourteenth century B.C. his name is 
found with those of three Aryan deities in an inscription 
from Boghaz Keui recording a treaty between the ruler 
of Mitanni and the Hittite king, and from this it is 
inferred that the service of these gods was carried on in 
the latter kingdom. Later in the Zarathushtrian reform 
or revival, which had for its object the exaltation of 
Ahuramazda, the claims and rights of Mithra were set 
aside, and instead of occupying the first place, holding 
the scales evenly between the rival subordinate powers 
of good and evil, he is relegated to an entirely lower 
position, as one of the creations of Ahuramazda. Indi- 
cations, however, remain in the texts of his former 
greatness; he is the first of the yazatas, sustainer and 
defender of the truth, guardian and guide of the righteous 
dead, rendering effective aid to Ahuramazda in his 
combats with the demons, and is invoked in prayer. 
In later dedications and inscriptions he is the divine 
giver of victory. 

It would seem, therefore, that in the broader accepta- 
tion of the terms neither the time nor the place of the 
beginnings of Mithraism can be definitely ascertained. 
The worship of the sun-god probably originated indepen- 
dently on the sun-lit plains of Central Iran, as in India 



6 MITHRAISM 

and other parts of the ancient world. It may, however, 
have been due to a foreign source, established and 
developed elsewhere, and carried by early settlers to the 
favourable environment of Bactria, modern Persia and 
the adjacent countries. In these lands the religion of 
Mithra, if not indigenous, was established at a very 
early date, and the material is wanting for a recon- 
struction of its antecedent history. The primitive 
migrations of peoples are only less uncertain than the 
faiths they bore with them. Some figures on early 
Persian monuments with a circle of rays around the 
head, traditionally supposed to represent the prophet 
Zarathushtra, have been claimed for Mithra himself, but 
there is no real basis for the conjecture. " Mitra" or 
"Mithra" signifies "associate," "friend," and it was 
in the kindly aspect of the god that the worship of the 
sun found a congenial home and place of nurture for 
many centuries in ancient Iran. 

In such an environment, however, it was impossible 
that the faith should remain uncontaminated and alone. 
From all sides other cults and other deities, most if not 
all of them crude and naturalistic, were pressing for 
recognition. An early illustration of this syncretistic 
tendency is perhaps to be found in the intrusion of the 
Aryan gods, above noticed. The native beliefs and 
superstitions also, animistic and magical, varying in 
name and form and ritual in every district, were a 
constant source of danger to its purity as soon as ever 
Mithraism moved from its early home. The reform of 
Zarathushtra was essentially an endeavour to expel the 
foreign and unworthy elements, as he conceived them to 
be, from his native faith, and to restore and maintain its 
primitive truth and simplicity. The name ' ' Mithraism ' ' 
in the narrower and more technical meaning is of course 



INTRODUCTION 



of much later origin and application. The continuity of 
the faith, however, was maintained from very early 
times. " Mithraism " served itself heir to a long 
ancestral line, the beginnings of which are beyond the 
recorded dawn of history. But the accretions that have 
been gathered in during a long history are of great 
variety and number, and it is not always practicable to 
indicate the source whence they were derived. Kindred 
beliefs and philosophies, primitive superstitions and 
magic, abstract speculation, nature- worship and folk- 
lore, have all made their contribution to a rich and 
varied whole, in which these elements have more or less 
readily combined. 

Diffusion. — Mithraism therefore by origin and birth- 
place was a faith and cult of the Nearer East, and was 
only one, although perhaps the most important of the 
Oriental religions which permeated Rome and the 
Empire during the early centuries of the Christian era. 
Within the Empire's limits Mithraism appears to have 
been practically confined before the beginning of our 
era to Asia Minor, where it had adopted native rites 
and found itself at home among native modes of thought. 
Its eclectic and syncretistic spirit would seem to have 
facilitated its extension among peoples of a religious 
temperament, but with no systematised creed or cult. 
The opportunity for its rapid movement toward the 
West was given by the methods and requirements of 
the Roman military system. The agents responsible 
for this diffusion of Mithraic thought and worship were 
mainly two : the soldiers recruited for the Roman armies 
from among the warlike tribes of the nearer East, who 
carried with them to the most distant military camps 
their faith and ritual and proselytizing zeal, and seem 
to have proved themselves untiring and successful 



MITHRAISM 



missionaries of the religion of Mithra; and to a much 
less extent, perhaps with less opportunity, captives from 
across the border sold as slaves in the wealthy house- 
holds of the Roman cities or of the great landed pro- 
prietors, who in their new homes maintained their 
religious beliefs and taught and practised their accus- 
tomed ritual. The military colonies also were centres 
of Mithraic light and leading. 

Moreover the principal trade-routes were arteries 
along which Mithraic ideas found their way to the 
West. The agents in this diffusion were similarly 
Eastern merchants, who carried with them their own 
faith and religious rites, and together with settlements 
for trade and commerce established in the various 
countries the worship of their own deities, and made the 
provision necessary for the maintenance of religious 
custom and ritual. How far definite attempts at 
proselytism were carried forward in these new centres 
it is not easy to determine. Probably the attractive- 
ness of the new faith with its promises of release and of 
hope for the future proved sufficiently powerful to win 
disciples in at least as great numbers as the newly- 
founded communities were able to assimilate, without 
any strenuous efforts at propaganda or expansion; 
and these converts were drawn from all strata of the 
population, not only from the lowliest and the poor, 
but from the wealthy nobles, the Roman knights, and 
the highest in the land. In all probability, however, 
the greater number of the votaries of Mithra belonged 
to the lower classes. In definitely Greek lands the 
appeal seems to have met with comparatively little 
success. Few traces of Mithraic worship have been 
found in Greece proper. To Greek philosophy and 
thought the problems of regeneration and the future 



INTRODUCTION 9 

life, of which Mithraism professed to offer a solution, 
were not new; and the answers which their thinkers 
had worked out through the centuries, if somewhat 
bewildering in their variety, were more acceptable than 
the speculations of a foreign creed. 

If the sites upon which Mithraic sanctuaries or monu- 
ments have been discovered are plotted upon a map of 
Europe and the Nearer East, as is done for example in 
the map published in Cumont's Textes et Monuments or 
the English translation Mysteries of Mithra, they will 
be seen to extend from the extreme borders of the 
Roman Empire in the East to the British Isles in the 
West, but on the frontier of the Empire from the Black 
to the North Seas they are especially numerous. The 
provinces of Dacia, Pannonia, Noricum, and Germania 
are rich in remains of the faith of Mithra. The Roman 
garrisons along the Scotch border line also have left 
.traces of the presence of the cult. In the neighbour- 
hood of Rome and in North Italy sculptures and monu- 
ments of Mithraic origin are widely diffused, but they are 
found more rarely in the South of France, and a few only 
have been discovered in Spain. In Asia Minor itself 
they are not numerous, and in North Africa they are 
rare, nor does the faith seem to have penetrated into 
the interior. A solitary monument has been traced at 
Memphis, and there was a sanctuary and worship at 
Alexandria. A Mithraeum existed also in London. 

The total number of the monuments it is hardly 
possible to estimate. In some instances the Mithraic 
character of the remains is uncertain. Several hundred, 
however, are known, dating from the middle of the 
first century. With the collapse of Julian's power in the 
year 363 a.d. and the restoration of Christianity Mithraism 
appears to have lost its hold and gradually decayed. No 



10 



MITHRAISM 



precise date, however, can be assigned for its final 
disappearance. 

Sanctuaries. — The Chapels or Sanctuaries of Mithraic 
worship, as they are known from existing remains or 
from the accounts of contemporary writers, are appa- 
rently modelled in regard to their form and situation 
upon the ancient primitive rituals of Phrygia and Asia 
Minor, celebrated in the open air or in the dens and caves 
of the mountains. Without exception as far as is known 
the sanctuaries were of small size, capable of accommo- 
dating only a limited number of worshippers or of 
candidates for initiation. They were crypts or caverns 
either wholly artificial or artificially enlarged, and in the 
cities at least for the most part underground, in dark 
caves or cellars from which the natural light must have 
been almost altogether excluded. Several of these 
small Mithrcea, or sanctuaries for the celebration of the 
mysteries, are found within a single city such as Ostia 
or Rome, and they give the impression both of exclusive- 
ness and of a cult discountenanced, and perhaps harassed 
by the prevailing religious authorities. The larger 
chapels consist of a nave or fore-court, beyond which 
was a smaller chamber leading to the actual crypt or 
sanctuary, approached by a few steps, in which the 
celebration of the sacred mysteries took place. At the 
back of the crypt was a relief or sculptured scene of 
Mithra in the act of slaying the bull, with other animal 
figures symbolic of the facts or truths presented in the 
mysteries. Statues or figures also of Mithra himself 
and of his attendant torch-bearers were placed some- 
times in the crypt or the anterior chambers, and by the 
side of the main altar stood a font for the holy water of 
purification. Along the sides of the chamber were stone 
benches, or a raised dais, on which probably the cele- 



INTRODUCTION 



ii 



brants took their places at the ritual of service. One of 
the most elaborate and complete of these Mithraa has 
been found on the military frontier at Carnuntum on 
the Danube, near Vienna. In addition to the ordinary 
sculptures it contained two altars, of different sizes, and 
a stone lion, the emblem of strength and lordship, 
sacred to Mithra. 

The sculptures found in London are described by 
Cumont, Vol. II. p. 389 ff. and reproduced from photo- 
graphs. They were discovered in the City in or near 
Walbrook during some excavations, and according to 
Cumont 's statement are preserved in a private museum 
at Hitchin. The Mithrasum probably stood therefore 
not far from the present site of the Bank of England. 
The inscription on the chief sculpture states that it was 
dedicated by a certain Ulpius Silvanus, a soldier of the 
Second Augustan legion. The sculptures themselves 
are supposed from their style and the marble of which 
they are composed to have been brought into London 
from abroad. Monuments also of Mithraic origin have 
been found in York and Chester, as well as on the 
frontier in Scotland, as would naturally be expected in 
centres of military importance. 

Symbolism and Worship.— -Of the details of the ritual 
and ceremonies observed in these sanctuaries of the 
Mithraic faith little is known. Derived as they were 
for the most part from the native rites and worship of 
Asia Minor, they would not be lacking in scenery and 
pomp designed to impress the eye and captivate the 
senses of the worshipper. In the darkness or semi- 
darkness of the caverns and underground chapels, the 
shrine itself, in which the principal ceremonies took 
place, would be illuminated with artificial light to 
throw into relief both the symbolic sculptures at the 
B 



12 



MITHRAISM 



further end of the shrine and the figures of the officiating 
priests in their rich vestments celebrating the mysteries. 
The scenic effects were no doubt designed especially to 
impress the candidates for initiation; a world of light 
and forms of suggestive symbolism and spiritual inter- 
pretation were opened up before them, whereby their 
mind and thought, already dazed perhaps by the 
brilliancy of the illumination and the novelty of the 
worship, might be led away from earthly things, and 
concentrated on the mysteries and hopes of the world 
to come. As enumerated by Jerome {infra p. 61), 
there were seven grades of initiation through which the 
neophyte passed, as he became fitted to receive higher 
teaching and to enter into fuller communion with the 
Divine. There were grades also of priests, modelled 
upon the Zoroastrian priesthood in Persia, and the 
most influential positions and rank appear always to 
have been in the hands of an elect few, to whom were 
confided the secrets of the highest knowledge beyond 
the reach or the capacity of the ordinary worshipper. 
As the figure of Mithra himself, so the entire ceremonial 
and symbolism were Oriental in their presentation and 
character. 

It is unfortunate that the extant accounts of Mithraic 
customs and worship are for the most part from unfriendly 
critics, whose purpose was not to exhibit the best or to 
offer a fair and complete exposition of a faith and worship 
with which they were out of sympathy and of the real 
meaning and intention of which they had little under- 
standing, but to select what of barbaric observance or 
complex doctrine appeared to them capable of easy 
ridicule or of effective denunciation. The monuments 
themselves are dumb ; and their significance or place in 
religious thought can only be inferred from the literary 



INTRODUCTION 



13 



references, and from the analogy of other faiths and 
legends. The brief dedicatory inscriptions in their stiff 
and formal phraseology give no information upon the 
spirit in which the worshipper approached the shrine, 
or the truths which he believed to be there presented. 
Though domiciled in the West, Mithraic ritual and 
thought remained true to its Eastern source, and appears 
to have undergone little change or modification during 
the centuries of its life in the cities and military camps 
of the Roman Empire. 

The central figure in the sculptured relief which forms 
the background of the Mithraic shrine is always the 
tauroctonous Mithra, the god bestriding the bull and 
in the act of slaying it by thrusting a sword or dagger 
into its neck. This supreme divinity Mithra is himself 
an example of the syncretism, through and in which 
the faith took its rise. The ancient Iranian god of light 
was identified with Shamash, the Babylonian sun-god, 
and Mithraism adopted and assimilated many of the 
beliefs, legends and traditions which had held sway on 
the plains of Babylonia from a greater or less antiquity. 
As god of light, and ruler of the upper air, Mithra was 
mediator or intermediary (^co-tr^s) between the gods 
who inhabited the upper world and the lower world of 
men ; and according to one form of the legend, soon after 
his birth from Chronos or Time he entered into conflict 
with Shamash, whom he vanquished and bound to himself 
in a perpetual covenant of friendship and alliance. He 
is represented in many sculptures as born from a rock 
(7T€Tpoyeviys or Trerpr)ywr)<i) and is worshipped by shepherds 
who had witnessed his miraculous birth. The bull was 
the first and noblest, apart from man, of the creations 
of Ahuramazda, and Mithra for some reason which the 
legends do not explain was commanded to slay it. 



14 



MITHRAISM 



With his dog he pursued and caught the bull, dragging 
it on his shoulders to the cave, where it was put to 
death. Mithra was therefore taurophorous (Tavpo<f>6po<>) 
as well as tauroktonous (raupoKTovos). From the 
dying bull issued the seed of life to the world. And 
thus the act of Mithra became the sign or symbol of 
regeneration, from death to life, and the worshipper at 
the shrine had perpetually before his eyes the reminder 
that death did not end all, but was the gateway to 
renewed life. The spirit or soul of the bull was received 
into Heaven, and there deified as the guardian of cattle. 

The significance or symbolism of the other figures of 
the sculptures is not altogether easy to interpret, nor 
are the extant accounts of much assistance. An apology 
or explanation from a votary of Mithra, if such had 
been preserved, would have made much plain that at 
present is obscure. Accompanying the central figure 
of the god himself are usually two standing figures, one 
on either side, bearing each a torch in the right hand, 
whence their name " torch-bearers " (SaSo^dpot, BaSovxot), 
the one upright, the other inverted and pointing down- 
wards. They have been explained, not very con- 
vincingly, as duplicates of Mithra himself, or as repre- 
senting the rising and the setting sun. It is probable 
that they symbolised in some way the light and heat 
of the sun, as inseparable attributes of the god. It is 
natural to compare the two youthful attendants on the 
Buddha, that appear on the Gandhara sculptures. 
These also have been interpreted as replicas of the 
Buddha. Whether there is any connection between 
the scenes from the East and the West is uncertain. 
Possibly a common origin should be attributed to them. 

Around and beneath the central figures of Mithra and 
the bull are grouped other figures, the significance of 



INTRODUCTION 



15 



which is more or less apparent. The ears of corn 
express the renewal of life in an ever-changing, ever- 
recurrent cycle. The scorpion and the serpent typify 
the forces of evil, that endeavour to neutralise and 
destroy the regenerative power derived from the life 
and death of the bull. The bull itself was no doubt 
considered a symbol of the strongest natural vigour and 
energy. The dog of Mithra watches the scene. And 
in the canopy of the heaven above are set the signs of 
the zodiac, or the sun and moon. In this last sym- 
bolism the influence of Babylonian astrology is evident. 
In the sculptures much was due also to Greek art, and 
the face and figure of the victorious god, as he con- 
summates the death of the bull, bear a strong resem- 
blance to the representations of the youthful Hercules. 
The legends of the sufferings and exploits of the god 
also are clearly borrowed from or modelled upon the 
traditions of the Greek hero. Other stories have their 
origin in Jewish sources, and reproduce with more or 
less closeness and fidelity the narratives of the Penta- 
teuch. To relieve the sufferings of mankind in a great 
drought, for which the powers of evil are responsible, 
Mithra shoots an arrow into the rock, and water immedi- 
ately springs forth. Similarly in a deluge of water 
covering the earth one man is warned and saves himself 
with his cattle in a ship. These and other scenes are 
variously represented in the sculptures. 

Mithraism therefore made its appeal effective, in 
great part at least within military circles, but also to the 
downtrodden and enslaved, to whom it offered the 
prospect of freedom and the amelioration of their lot 
in a future life. The traditions concerning the god 
exalted the military virtues of courage and endurance, 
and represented the triumph through conflict of 



i6 



MITHRAISM 



strength enlisted on behalf of right and justice against 
violence and wrong. How far the cosmology and the 
legends were accepted as a matter of faith it is impos- 
sible to determine. But the popularity and success of 
the religion of Mithra did not depend upon the stories 
of its origin. To the wistful outlook into the future it 
gave a clear and prompt response ; and in so far as its 
foundations were laid upon a real human longing and 
need, it was secure of a ready acceptance. Even the 
Christian propaganda does not seem to offer an adequate 
or equal parallel to the wide and rapid extension of the 
faith of Mithra. It was unable to avail itself, as did 
Muhammadanism, of the power of the sword. But in 
the declaration of the forgiveness of sins and the puri- 
fication of the wrong-doer from his guilt, and in the 
doctrine of a new life, a life renewed and perpetuated 
through death, Mithraism found a spiritual strength 
which carried it far and wide, and which seems to have 
won for it the enthusiastic support and devotion of its 
adherents. 

Decay and Disappearance. — The causes of the decay 
and apparently rapid decline of the influence and popu- 
larity of the Mithraic cult are obscure. Undoubtedly its 
decline went to a not inconsiderable extent hand in hand 
with that of Rome's military power. But the zenith 
of its greatness and prestige appears to have been 
passed before the Roman legions, especially as recruited 
from the provinces of the Near East, retreated from 
their outposts on the frontier. Undoubtedly the 
criticism and opposition of Christianity had something, 
perhaps much to do with its declension and ultimate 
eclipse. From the Mithraic point of view it was 
unfortunate that the features of ritual and symbolism 
which lent themselves to misrepresentation and abuse 



INTRODUCTION 



17 



were more prominent than the esoteric doctrines which 
appealed to the inner circle of more thoughtful disciples 
and initiates. Of this the Christian polemic did not 
fail to take full advantage. It is fair also to remember 
that our knowledge of these ceremonies and of the 
beliefs they represented is derived mainly from the 
narratives of opponents, whose prejudice and interest, 
to say the least, were not enlisted on the side of pre- 
senting Mithraic cult and faith in their most favourable 
light. Mithraism failed before the rivalry of a dominant 
and more aggressive faith which wielded the powers 
both of an established religion and of eloquent schools 
of teaching and defence, but also before the winning and 
persuasive force of the larger truth. And it was well 
for the world that it failed. The period from the middle 
of the first to the end of the third century may be 
regarded as the time when Mithraism reached the 
highest point of prosperity and influence. Thence- 
forward it appears to have gradually lost its hold, and 
to have ceased to be of real consequence among the 
religions of the Empire. Probably it lingered long in 
obscure districts in the provinces, and among the more 
tenacious and conservative elements of the military 
party. Of the details and stages however of its decay 
nothing is really known. 

Literature. — It would serve no useful purpose to give 
a long list of references to Mithraism in published works. 
The standard authorities are the publications of M. 
Cumont, mentioned below; next to these perhaps in 
interest and importance are the articles in the ency- 
clopaedias, summarising knowledge on the subject. It 
would not be difficult to extend the list. In all the 
works named, however, there will be found much that is 
of great value, contributing to a real understanding of the 



18 



MITHRAISM 



conditions of the world and of the social and religious 
life in which the religion of Mithra found itself. 

F. Cumont, Textes et Monuments figures relatifs aux 

Mysteres de Mithra, 2 vols., Brussels, 1899; "The 

Mysteries of Mithra," translated from the' second 

revised French edition by T. J. McCormack, 

London and Chicago, 1903. 
S. Dill, Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius, 

London, 1904, ch. vi, "The Religion of Mithra"; 

Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western 

Empire, 2nd ed. ibid. 1899. 
J. Toutain, Les Cultes Paiens dans I'Empire Romain, 

Paris, 1911, ch. iv, Le Culte de Mithra. 
W. Warde Fowler, Religious Experience of the Roman 

People, London, 1911. 
T. R. Glover, Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman 

Empire, 3rd ed., London, 1909, especially in relation 

to Plutarch, p. 105, fustin, p. 191, Lucian, p. 210, 

Celsus, p. 256, Tertullian, p. 317 f. 
L. Patterson, Mithraism and Christianity, Cambridge, 

1921. 

A. Dieterich, Eine Mithrasliturgie, 2nd ed., Paris and 

Berlin, 1910. 
A. V. Williams Jackson, Zoroaster, the Prophet of 

Ancient Iran, New York and London, 1901 ; Persia, 

Past and Present, ibid., 1906. 
Arts. " Mithra, Mithraism," in Hastings' Encyclopedia 

of Religion and Ethics, vol. viii, with the literature 

there cited, in the Encyclopedia Britannica, etc. 



AVESTA 



Mithra in the Avesta. — The passages in which Mithra 
is referred to in the Avesta are numerous, for his worship 
was of great antiquity and importance. A selection of 
them only can be given here. Antedating, as they do, 
by many centuries the rise of Mithraism in the later and 
more technical meaning of the term, they illustrate and 
define the character of the god who held the supreme 
position in this later cult. From early times the sun was 
almost universally an object of reverence, and already in 
the Avesta the deification of the visible solar orb has 
been effected and the attributes of his person determined 
and described. In this respect the Mihir Yasht is of 
especial importance and interest, being occupied entirely 
with the praise of Mithra, invocations and prayers to 
him for help, and descriptions of his offices and character. 
As the deity of light he sees and knows all, visits upon 
the wrongdoer his sin, and as an impartial judge renders 
to every man according to his deserts. In the pantheon 
of Iran he holds a similar position to that of Varuna in 
the Rig- Veda. The renderings are from S.B.E. vols. 
23, 31- 

Sirozah II. 16 : We sacrifice unto Mithra, the lord 

of wide pastures, who has a thousand ears and ten 

thousand eyes, a God invoked by his own name. 
» 

With slight variations the same words are elsewhere 

more than once repeated. 

19 



20 MITHRAISM 

Fravardin Yasht I. 18 : The man who in life shall 
treat the Fravashis of the faithful well will become a 
ruler of the country with full power and a chief most 
strong. So shall any man of you become, who shall 
treat Mithra well, the lord of wide pastures. 

Zamydd Yasht VII. 35 : Then Mithra seized that 
glory, Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, whose ear 
is quick to hear, who has a thousand senses. We 
sacrifice unto Mithra, the lord of all countries, whom 
Ahura Mazda has created the most glorious of all the 
gods in the heavens. 

Mithra, therefore, is a creation of Ahura Mazda. 

Vishtdsp Yasht I. 4 : Mayest thou (Vishtaspa) be 
freed from sickness and death like Peshotanu (son of 
V.). Mayest thou have piercing rays like Mithra. 
Mayest thou be warm like the moon. Mayest thou 
be resplendent like fire. 

Mihir Nydyish : We sacrifice unto Mithra, the lord 
of wide pastures, who is truth-speaking, a chief in 
assemblies, with a thousand ears, well-shapen, with 
ten thousand eyes, high, with full knowledge, strong, 
sleepless, and ever awake. 

We sacrifice unto Mithra, the lord of all countries, 
whom Ahura Mazda made the most glorious of all 
the heavenly gods. So may Mithra and Ahura, the 
two great gods, come to us for help {i.e. to give help). 
We sacrifice unto the undying, shining, swift-horsed 
sun. 



We sacrifice unto Mithra and Ahura, the two great 
imperishable holy gods ; and unto the stars and the 
moon and the sun with the trees that yield baresma. 
We sacrifice unto Mithra, the lord of all countries. 



AVESTA 



21 



Mihir Yasht I. 1, 4 f. : Ahura Mazda spake unto 

Spitama Zarathushtra saying : Verily, when I 

created Mithra, the lord of wide pastures, O Spitama, 

I created him as worthy of sacrifice, as worthy of 

prayer as myself, Ahura Mazda. 

****** 

For his brightness and glory I will offer unto him 
a sacrifice worth being heard, unto Mithra, the lord 
of wide pastures. 

We offer up libations unto Mithra, the lord of wide 
pastures, who gives a happy dwelling and a good 
dwelling to the Aryan nations. 

May he come to us for help. May he come to us 
for ease. May he come to us for joy. May he come 
to us for mercy. May he come to us for health. May 
he come to us for victory. May he come to us for 
good conscience. May he come to us for bliss. He, 
the awful and overpowering, worthy of sacrifice and 
prayer, not to be deceived anywhere in the whole 
of the material world, Mithra, the lord of wide 
pastures. 

lb. II. 9 : On whichever side he has been wor- 
shipped first in the fullness of faith of a devoted 
heart, to that side turns Mithra, the lord of wide 
pastures, with the fiend-smiting wind, with the cursing 
thought of the wise. 

lb. V. 17 ff. : Unto whom no one must lie, neither 
the master of a house, nor the lord of a borough, nor 
the lord of a town, nor the lord of a province. 
****** 

On whatever side there is one who has lied unto 
Mithra, on that side Mithra stands forth, angry and 
offended, and his wrath is slow to relent. 

lb. XIII. 56 ff. ; With a sacrifice in which thou art 



22 



MITHRAISM 



invoked by thy own name, with the proper words will 
I offer thee libations, O most beneficent Mithra. 
****** 

Listen unto our sacrifice, O Mithra. Be thou 
pleased with our sacrifice, O Mithra. Come and sit 
at our sacrifice. Accept our libations. Accept 
them as they have been consecrated. Gather them 
together with love, and lay them in the Garonmana. 1 

Grant us these boons which we beg of thee, O 
powerful god, in accordance with the words of revela- 
tion, riches strength and victory, good conscience 
and bliss, good fame and a good soul, wisdom and 
the knowledge that gives happiness, the victorious 
strength given by Ahura. 

lb. XXIV. 95 : Who goes over the earth, all her 
breadth over, after the setting of the sun, touches 
both ends of this wide round earth, whose ends lie 
afar, and surveys everything that is between the earth 
and the heavens. 

lb. XXVII. 106 f. : Should the evil thoughts of 
the earthly man be a hundred times worse, they would 
not rise so high as the good thoughts of the heavenly 
Mithra. 

^ The same formula is then repeated in succession for 
" evil words," " evil deeds." 

****** 
Should the heavenly wisdom in the earthly man be a 
hundred times greater, it would not rise so high as 
the heavenly wisdom in the heavenly Mithra. 

And thus, should the ears of the earthly man hear 

a hundred times better, he would not hear so well as 

the heavenly Mithra, whose ear hears well, who has 

a thousand senses, and sees every man that tells a lie. 

1 The Paradise of Ahura Mazda. 



MISHNA 



23 



Yasna I. n : I announce and complete (my Yasna) 
to the two, to Ahura and to Mithra, the lofty and the 
everlasting and the holy, and to all the stars which 
are Spenta Mainyu's creatures, . . . and to the 
resplendent Sun, him of the rapid steeds, the eye of 
Ahura Mazda, and to Mithra the province-ruler. 

lb. II. II : In this Zaothra with this Baresman I 
desire to approach Ahura and Mithra with my praise, 
the lofty, eternal, and the holy two ; and I desire to 
approach the stars, moon and sun with the Baresman 
plants and with my praise, and with them Mithra 
the governor of all the provinces, and Ahura Mazda 
the radiant and glorious, and the good heroic bountiful 
Fravashis of the saints. 

Gdh Hdvan 2 : To Mithra of the wide pastures, 
of the thousand ears, of the myriad eyes, the Yazad 
of the spoken name, be sacrifice, homage, propitiation, 
and praise. 

Mishna 'Abodd Zdrd, II. 3 : The following articles of 
the heathen are prohibited, and in such wise that no 
benefit may be derived from them : wine . . . and 
skins with an incision at the animal's heart — Rabban 
Shim' on ben Gamliel says, " only if the incision is 
circular, but not when it is made lengthwise." 



The passage is not improbably supposed to refer to the 
sacrifice of the bull in the Mithraic cults. The Talmudic 
comment or explanation of the judgement quoted from 
Gamaliel is to the effect that a circular form of the skin 
around the wound indicates that the latter was inflicted 
before death; if the animal was dead when the wound 
was inflicted the skin did not contract but remained 
straight. There is no reference to Jewish ceremonial 



24 



MITHRAISM 



KTESIAS 



25 



slaughter. 1 The 'Aboda Zara, " strange service," 
" idolatry " is the eighth treatise of the fourth book of 
the Mishna, \W tjd, book of " Damages," and treats of 
the relation of the Jews to idolaters and their practices. 
Like the rest of the Mishna the date of the treatise cannot 
be exactly determined. It contains older and more 
recent elements. Traditionally the final settlement and 
revision of the whole work was due to Rabbi Yehuda 
ha-Nasi, Judah the Prince, towards the end of the second 
century. 

Herodotus : Others are accustomed to ascend the 
hill- tops and sacrifice to Zeus, the name they give 
to the whole expanse of the heavens. Sacrifice is 
offered also to the sun and moon, to the earth and 
fire and water and the winds. These alone are from 
ancient times the objects of their worship, but they 
have adopted also the practice of sacrifice to Urania, 
which they have learned from the Assyrians and 
Arabians. The Assyrians give to Aphrodite the name 
Mylitta, the Arabians Alilat and the Persians Mitra. 

Herodotus of Halicarnassus on the south-west' coast of 
Asia Minor was born towards the beginning of the fifth 
century B.C., and is believed to have lived to the age of 
about sixty years. The " Father of History " based his 
narrative upon written and oral information accumu- 
lated during extensive travels in Egypt and elsewhere; 
and the doubts at one time widely felt and expressed with 
regard to his good faith and accuracy have been almost 
altogether refuted. His great work appears to have 
occupied him until his death, and he died leaving it 

1 See W. A. L. Elmslie, The Mishna on Idolatry, p. 31, to whom 
I am indebted for note and rendering; cp. also ib. p. 20. 



unfinished. The reference to Mithra is found in the 
131st chapter of the first Book. If the text is correct 
Herodotus has been misled in regard to the identifica- 
tion of Mitra or Mithra wth Aphrodite. Mithra was a 
male, not a female divinity. 

Ktesias : Ktesias reports that among the Indians 
it was not lawful for the king to drink to excess. 
Among the Persians however the king was permitted 
to be intoxicated on the one day on which sacrifice 
was offered to Mithra. 

The text is derived from the encyclopaedic work of 
Athenaeus of Naucratis, who lived at Rome towards the 
end of the second century of our era, wherein are pre- 
served quotations from many ancient writers, not a few 
of whom would be otherwise unknown or unrecorded- 
Ktesias himself was a Greek of Cnidus in Caria, a younger 
contemporary of Herodotus, who practised medicine for 
many years in Persia under Artaxerxes Mnemon, and 
wrote a history of Persia in twenty-three books down to 
the year 398 B.C., which is now known only in the 
quotations of later writers. 

Xenophon : (a) Do you wonder at this, Lysander ? 
I swear to you by Mithra that whenever I am in 
health I never break my fast without perspiring. 

(b) By Mithra I could not come to you yesterday 
without fighting my way through many foes. 

The words of the first passage quoted are put into the 
mouth of Cyrus the Younger, addressed to Lysander, 
(Economicus, IV. 24. The latter citation is from the 
Cyropcedia VII. 5, spoken by Artabazus to Cyrus the 
Elder. In either case little more is indicated than that 



L 



26 



MITHRAISM 



the oath by the god was a popular form of speech, 
regarded as of more or less binding force. 

Duris : In the seventh book of his Histories Duris 
has preserved the following account on this subject. 
Only at the festival celebrated by the Persians in 
honour of Mithra does the Persian king become 
drunken and dance after the Persian manner. On 
this day throughout Asia all abstain from the dance. 
For the Persians are taught both horsemanship and 
dancing ; and they believe that the practice of these 
rhythmical movements strengthens and disciplines 
the body. 

The quotation is due to the same source, and reports 
the same custom as that of Ktesias above. If the report is 
correct, or true at least of the period at which the writers 
lived, the king was under a tabu to refrain from wine, 
which tabu might be broken on the day of the Mithraic 
festival ; and apparently according to Duris his subjects 
place themselves for the time being under a compensa- 
tory tabu. The statement does not seem to be corrobo- 
rated by other writers. Duris of Samos was born about 
the middle of the fourth century B.C., and his " His- 
tories " covered a period of nearly a century, beginning 
with 370 B.C. Fragments only of this and of his other 
works have been preserved. 

Strabo : (a) The country (i.e. Armenia) is so 
excellently suited to the rearing of horses, being not 
inferior indeed to Media, that the Nisasan steeds are 
raised there also of the same breed that the Persian 
kings were wont to use. And the satrap of Armenia 
used to send annually to Persia twice ten thousand 
colts for the Mithraic festivals. 



PLINY 



27 



(b) The Persians therefore do not erect statues 
and altars, but sacrifice on a high place, regarding 
the heaven as Zeus ; and they honour also the sun, 
whom they call Mithra, and the moon and Aphrodite 
and fire and earth and the winds and water. 

The extracts are from the Geographika of Strabo, 
circa 20 B.C., books XI. 14, XV. 3. The author is supposed 
to have in view here the passage from Herodotus cited 
above (p. 24), and tacitly to correct the error which 
makes of Mithra a female deity. 

Pliny : [a) Mithrax is brought from Persia and 
the hill-country of the Red Sea, a stone of varied 
colours that reflects the light of the sun. 

(b) The Assyrians prize Eumitren the jewel of Bel 
their most honoured deity, of a light-green colour 
and employed in divination. 

The names of the precious stones described by Pliny 
(c. 23-79 A - D -) seem to be derived from the name of the 
god, and were probably therefore sacred to him and 
worn or otherwise used in his ritual. The date of Pliny's 
death, 79 a.d., is the year of the great eruption of 
Vesuvius, in which he perished. The extracts are from 
the last, the 37th book of the Historia Natufalis, Chap. X. 

Quintus Curtius : The king himself with his 
generals and Staff passed around the ranks of the 
armed men, praying to the sun and Mithra and the 
sacred eternal fire to inspire them with courage 
worthy of their ancient fame and the monuments of 
their ancestors. 

Quintus Curtius Rufus wrote a History of Alexander 
the Great in ten books, c. 40 to 50 a.d. The words 
c 



28 



MITHRAISM 



quoted are from the 4th Book, ch. 13. The king is 
Darius, reviewing his troops before the battle of Arbela, 
331 B.C. 

Plutarch : (a) The following is the opinion of the 
great majority of learned men. By some it is main- 
tained that there are two gods, rivals as it were, 
authors the one of good and the other of evil. Others 
confine the name of god to the good power, the other 
they term demon, as was done by Zoroaster the 
Magian, who is said to have lived to old age five 
thousand years before the Trojan war. He calls 
the one Horomazes, the other Areimanius. The 
former he assserts is of all natural phenomena most 
closely akin to the light, the latter to darkness, and 
that Mithra holds an intermediate position. To 
Mithra therefore the Persians give the name of the 
mediator. Moreover he taught men to offer to 
Horomazes worthy and unblemished sacrifices, but 
to Areimanius imperfect and deformed. For they 
bruise a kind of grass called molu in a trough, and 
invoke Hades and Darkness ; then mixing it with 
the blood of a slaughtered wolf they carry it to a 
sunless place and throw it away. For they regard 
some plants as the property of the good god, and 
some -of the evil demon; and so also such animals 
as dogs and birds and hedgehogs belong to the good 
deity, and the water rat to the evil. Of these last 
therefore it is meritorious to kill as many as possible. 

They have also many stories to relate concerning 
the gods, for example that Horomazes was born of the 
purest light, Areimanius of the darkness, and these are 
hostile to one another. The former created six gods, the 
first three deities respectively of good- will, truth, and 
orderliness, the others of wisdom, wealth, and a good 



PLUTARCH 



29 



conscience. x By the latter rivals as it were to these were 
formed of equal number. Then Horomazes extended 
himself to thrice his stature as far beyond the sun 
as the sun is beyond the earth, and adorned the heaven 
with stars, appointing one star, Sirius, as guardian 
and watcher before all. He made also other twenty- 
four gods and placed them in an egg, but Areimanius 
produced creatures of equal number and these 
crushed the egg . . . wherefore evil is mingled with 
good. At the appointed time however Areimanius 
must be utterly brought to nought and destroyed by 
the pestilence and famine which he has himself 
caused, and the earth will be cleared and made free 
from obstruction, the habitation of a united com- 
munity of men dwelling in happiness and speaking 
one tongue. Theopompus further reports that 
according to the magi for three thousand years in 
succession each of the gods holds sway or is in sub- 
jection, and that there will follow on these a further 
period of three thousand years of war and strife, in 
which they mutually destroy the works of one another. 
Finally Hades will be overthrown, and men will be 
blessed, and will neither need nourishment nor cast 
a shadow. 2 And the deity who has accomplished 
these things will then take rest and solace for a 
period that is not long, especially for a god, and 

1 The last words are a paraphrase rather than a translation 
of Plutarch's expression, ihv twv eirl ro7s KaAols tidiwv SrifiiovpySv, 
creator of the satisfaction derived from well-doing, or from noble 
deeds. The meaning is doubtful. Plutarch was apparently 
rendering a Persian title, the real significance of which had been 
imperfectly conveyed to him ; and his Greek reflects the obscurity 
or ambiguity of the source on which he relied. The last of the 
six Amshaspands, whose name or title would be expected here, 
was Ameretdt, deathlessness or immortality. 

2 I. e. they will be like the gods, of whom this is a charac- 
teristic. 



30 MITHRAISM 

moderate for a sleeping man. To this effect then is 
the legendary account given by the magi. 

(b) If thou art not false to the interests of the 
Persians, but remainest loyal to me thy lord, tell me 
by thy regard for the great light of Mithra, and the 
royal right hand. . . . 

(c) Presenting a pomegranate of great size a certain 
Omisus said to him : By Mithra you may trust this 
man quickly to make an insignificant city great. 

(d) They were accustomed to offer strange sacri- 
fices on Olympus and to observe certain secret rites, 
of which that of Mithra is maintained to the present 
day by those by whom it was first established. 

(e) Near it also (i.e. the Araxes) is a mountain 
Diorphus, so called from the giant of that name, of 
which this story is told : Mithra being desirous of a 
son, and hating the female race, entered into a certain 
rock; and the stone becoming pregnant after the 
appointed time bore a child named Diorphus. The 
latter when he had grown to manhood challenged 
Ares to a contest of valour, and was slain. The 
purpose of the gods was then fulfilled in his trans- 
formation into the mountain which bears his name. 

The first passage is from the De hide et Osiride, ch. 46. 
It is doubtful on what sources or authorities Plutarch 
relies for his description of the Persian rites and religion. 
He names Theopompus, the Greek historian of the 
4th century B.C., but does not appear to claim his 
authority for the entire account. For the details and 
legends he seems to be dependent in part at least upon 
vague tradition or report. Attention is called by 
Cumont to the mention of fiwXv = haoma as of interest, 
and possibly pointing to other than a Persian source, for 



DION CHRYSOSTOM- 



31 



H<o\v is said to be a Cappadocian word. Plutarch himself 
was born at Chaeronea in Bceotia in or shortly before the 
year 50 A.D., and lived to the age of seventy or more years. 
The other passages are taken respectively from the 
Lives of Alexander, Artaxerxes Mnemon, and Pompey, 
and from the De Fluviis, XXIII, 4. 

Dion Chrysostom, c. 100 a.d., a philosophical writer 
under the emperors Nerva and Trajan, composed a series 
of discourses or essays (Aoyoi) on various subjects, in one 
of which he reports concerning the doctrines and prac- 
tices of the magi. It is uncertain, however, whether 
his narrative has any direct reference to the cult of 
Mithra. Cumont quotes it with a few others among 
" doubtful texts." Its interest justifies its insertion 
here. 



Dion Chrysostom : In the secret mysteries the 
magi relate a further marvellous tradition concerning 
this god (Zeus) that he was the first and faultless 
charioteer of the unrivalled car. For they declare 
that the car of the sun is more recent, but on account 
of its prominent course in the sky is familiar to all. 
Whence is derived, it would seem, the common 
legend adopted by almost all the leading poets who 
have told of the risings and settings of the sun, the 
yoking of the steeds, and his ascent into the car. 
But of the mighty and perfect car of Zeus none of 
our writers hitherto has worthily sung, not even 
Homer or Hesiod, but the story is told by Zoroaster 
and the descendants of the magi who have learnt 
from him. Of him the Persians relate that moved 
by love of wisdom and righteousness he separated 
himself from men and lived apart on a certain 



32 



MITHRAISM 



mountain, that fire subsequently fell from heaven 
and the whole mountain was kindled into flame. The 
king then with the most illustrious of the Persians 
approached wishing to offer prayer to the god. 
And Zoroaster came forth from the fire unharmed, 
and gently bade them be of good courage and offer 
certain sacrifices, since it was the divine sanctuary 
to which the king had come. Afterwards only 
those distinguished for love of the truth and who 
were worthy to approach the god were permitted to 
have access, and to these the Persians gave the name 
of magi, as being adepts in the divine service; 
differing therein from the Greeks who through 
ignorance of the name call such men wizards. 1 
And among other sacred rites they maintain for 
Zeus a pair of Nisaean steeds, these being the noblest 
and strongest that Asia yields, but one steed only 
for the sun. Moreover, they recount their legend 
not like our poets of the Muses who with all the arts 
of persuasion endeavour to carry conviction, but 
quite simply. For without doubt the control and 
government of the Supreme 2 are unique, actuated 
always by the highest skill and strength, and that 
without cessation through endless ages. The circuits 
then of the sun and moon are, as I said, movements 
of parts, and therefore readily discernible- most 
men however do not understand the mo'vement 
and course of the whole, but the majestic order of 
its succession removes it above their comprehension. 
The further stories which they tell concerning the 
steeds and their management I hesitate to relate; 

1 avdpanrovs yorjTas. 

« roD rtpmvros , the universal, all in all. There is supposed 
to be a reference to the \6yos of the Stoics. "Fpubea 



DION CHRYSOSTOM 



33 



and indeed they fail to take into account that the 
nature of the symbolism they employ betrays their 
own character. For it may be that it would be 
regarded as an act of folly for me to set forth a 
barbarian tale by the side of the fair Greek lays. 
I must however make the venture. The first of 
the steeds is said to surpass infinitely in beauty and 
size and swiftness, running as it does on the outside 
round of the course, sacred to Zeus himself; and it 
is winged. The colour also of its skin is bright, of 
the purest sheen. And on it the sun and the moon 
are emblematically represented ; I understand the 
meaning to be that these steeds have emblems 
moon-shaped or other; and they are seen by us 
indistinctly like sparks dancing in the bright blaze 
of a fire, each with its own proper motion. And the 
other stars receive their light through it and are 
all under its influence; and some have the same 
motion and are carried round with it, and others 
follow different courses. And the latter have each 
their own name among men, but the others are 
grouped together, assigned to certain forms and 
shapes. The most handsome and variegated steed 
then is the favourite of Zeus himself, and on this 
account is lauded by them, receiving as is right the 
chief sacrifices and honours. The next to it in rank 
bears the name of Hera, being tractable and gentle, 
greatly inferior however in strength and swiftness. 
Its colour is naturally black, but that which is 
illuminated by the sun is always resplendent, while 
that which is in shadow during its circuit reveals 
the true character of the skin. The third is sacred 
to Poseidon, and is slower in movement than the 
second. His counterpart the poets say is found 



34 



MITHRAISM 



among men, meaning I suppose that which bears 
the name of Pegasus; a spring, 1 according to the 
story, breaking forth in Corinth when the ground 
was opened. The fourth is the strangest figure of 
all, fixed and motionless, not furnished with wings 
named Hestia; but they do not hesitate to declare 
that this also is yoked to the car, remaining however 
in its place champing a bit of steel. And the others 
are on each side closely attached to it, the two 
nearest turning equally towards it, as though 
assailing it and resenting its control ; but the leader 
on the outside circles constantly around it as though 
around a fixed centre post. For the most part 
therefore they live in peace and amity unhurt by 
one another, but eventually after a long time and 
many circuits the powerful breath of the leader 
descends from above and kindles into flame the 
proud spirit of the others, and most of all of the 
last. His flaming mane 2 then is set on fire, in 
which he took especial pride, and the whole universe. 
This calamity which they record they say that the 
Greeks attribute to Phaethon, for they refuse to 
blame Zeus' driving of the car, and are unwilling to 
attach fault to the circuits of the sun . and 
again when in the course of further years the sacred 
colt of the Nymphs and Poseidon rouses itself to 
unaccustomed exertion, and incommoded with the 
sweat that pours from it drenches its own yokefellow, 

1 niyacros, the name being connected with or derived from 
vvyv- Pegasus was said to be the son of Poseidon 

l,- A? a i T \ \i m ^ e v f& etation - g ra ss and trees of the earth 
kindled by the breath of the supreme god. In the MiSrair 
sculptures the lion-headed god is sometimes represented with 
flame proceeding out of his mouth. There is supposed also to 
be a reference to or confusion with the Stoic conception of 
periodical devastation of the world by fire. 



DION CHRYSOSTOM 



35 



it gives rise to a destruction the contrary of the 
preceding, a flood of water. This then is the one 
catastrophe of which the Greeks have record owing 
to their recent origin and the shortness of their 
memory, and they relate that Deucalion reigned 
over them at that time before the universal destruc- 
tion. And in consequence of the ruin brought upon 
themselves men regard these rare occurrences as 
taking place neither in harmony with reason nor 
as a part of the general order, overlooking the fact 
that they occur in due course and in accordance with 
the will of the preserver and ruler of all. For it is 
just as when a charioteer chastises one of his steeds 
by checking it with the rein or touching it with the 
whip; the horse gives a start and is restless before 
settling down into its accustomed order. This 
earlier control then of the team they say is firm and 
the universe suffers no harm ; but later a change 
takes place in the movement of the four, and their 
natures are mutually altered and interchanged, until 
they are all subdued by the higher power and a 
uniform character is imposed on all. Nevertheless 
they do not hesitate to compare this movement to 
the conduct and driving of a car, for lack of a more 
impressive simile. As though a clever artificer 
should fashion horses out of wax, and should then 
smooth off the roughnesses of each, adding now to 
one and now to another, finally reducing all to one 
pattern, and forming his whole material into one 
shape. This however is not the case of a Creator 
fashioning and transforming from the outside the 
material substance of things without life, but the 
experience is that of the very substances themselves, 
as though they were contending for victory in a real 



36 MITHRAISM 

and well-contested strife ; and the crown of victory 
is awarded of right to the first and foremost in 
swiftness and strength and in every kind of virtue, 
to whom at the beginning of our discourse we gave 
the name of " chosen of Zeus." For this one being 
the strongest and naturally fiery - quickly consumed 
the others as though they had been really wax in 
a period not actually long, though to our limited 
reasoning it appears infinite; and absorbing into 
himself the entire substance of all is seen to be far 
greater and more glorious than before, having won 
the victory in the most formidable contest by no 
mortal or immortal aid, but by his own valour. 
Raised then proudly aloft and exulting in his victory^ 
he takes possession of the widest possible domain' 
and yet such is his might and power that he craves 
further room for expansion. Having reached this 
conclusion they shrink 1 from describing the nature 
of the living creature as the same ; for that it is now 
no other than the soul of the charioteer and lord, or 
rather it has the same purpose and mind. 

There is some doubt whether the words of Chrysostom 
imply a recognition of Magian practices or of later 
Mithraism. The basis of his exposition and cosmological 
doctrine is Stoic. But there are features that seem to 
be directly attributable to the Magi and the mystical 
teaching of the East, for example the repeated destruc- 
tion of the universe and the rivalry and strife of the 
four elements. See Cumont's notes on the passage. 

Statins : Whether it please thee to bear the name 
of ruddy Titan after the manner of the Achasmenian 
Read probably ov Sva-ccirovvrai, they do not shrink from. 



STATIUS 



37 



race, or Osiris lord of the crops, or Mithra as beneath 
the rocks of the Persian cave he presses back the 
horns that resist his control. 

Scholiast : (a) He declares that different nations 
give to Apollo different names. The Achaemenians 
call him Titan, the Egyptians Osiris, the Persians 
Mithra and worship him in a cave. The expression 
" resist his control " has reference to the figure of 
Mithra holding back the horns of a recalcitrant 
bull, whereby is indicated the sun's illumination of 
the moon, when the latter receives its rays. 

(b) The Egyptians regard Osiris as the sun, by 
whom they think success may be assured to the 
crops. . . . These rites were first observed by the 
Persians, from whom the Phrygians received them, 
and from the Phrygians the Romans. The Persians 
give to the sun the native name of Mithra, as 
Hostanes relates. 

(c) The Persians are known as Achaemenians 
from Achaemenes, son of Perseus and Andromeda, 
who ruled there. They call the sun Apollo, and are 
said to have initiated the rites in his honour. 

(d) The Persians are said to have been the first to 
worship the sun in caverns. For he is represented 
in a cavern in Persian dress with a turban, grasping 
the horns of a bull with both hands. The figure is 
interpreted of the moon ; for reluctant to follow his 
brother he meets him full and his light is obscured. 
In these verses the mysteries of the rites of the sun 
are set forth. For in proof that the moon is 
inferior and of less power the sun is seated on the 
bull and grasps its horns. By which words Statius 
intended the two-horned moon to be understood, 
not the animal on which he rides. 



38 



MITHRAISM 



(e) The meaning is as follows : The Persians 
worship the Sun in caverns, and this sun is in their 
own language known as Mithra, who as suffering 
eclipse is worshipped within a cave. The sun him- 
self moreover is represented with the face of a lion 
with turban and in Persian dress, with both hands 
grasping the horns of an ox. And this figure is 
interpreted of the moon, which reluctant to follow 
its brother meets him full and obscures his light. 
He has revealed further a part of the mysteries. 
The Sun therefore presses down the bull as though 
to show 1 that the moon is inferior. He has laid 
especial stress moreover on the horns, in order that 
attention may be more clearly called to the moon, 
and not to the animal on which she is represented as 
riding. Since however this is not the place to discuss 
the mysteries of those gods on the lines of an abstract 
philosophy, I will add a few words with regard to 
the symbols employed. The sun is supreme, and 
because he treads down and controls the chief con- 
stellation, that is to say the lion, he is himself repre- 
sented with this face ; or the reason may be that he 
surpasses the rest of the gods in power and energy, 
as the lion other wild beasts, or because of its 
impetuosity. The moon however being nearer to 
the bull controls and leads it, and is represented as 
a cow. But these gods of divine and royal estate 
as they appear in the world are without mortal 
form either of man or beast, having neither beginning 
nor end nor an intermediate part as other and lesser 
deities, as he himself declares above : " next comes 
the crowd of the wandering demigods." For that 
is necessitated by the attribute of eternity. 

1 Cumont would adopt the correction ducens for docens 
possibly rightly. 



JUSTIN MARTYR 



39 



(/) He gives to the rocks of a Persian cavern the 
name of temple of Perseus in virtue of the repre- 
sentation there of Phoebus as drawing to himself 
the moon that is reluctant to follow. After the full 
moon the latter goes in advance of the sun, and in 
so doing gradually loses her own light, until she 
ceases entirely to shine. Approaching the sun how- 
ever at length she renews her light, and then follows 
the sun. Moreover at the full, being now nearest 
to the sun, she is said to be grasped by him. 

P. Papinius Statius, who lived in the second half of 
the first century, spent the greater part of his life in 
Rome, but returned to his native city of Naples towards 
the end of the century, and seems to have died there 
c. 96 a.d. His principal work is an epic poem on the 
expedition of the Seven against Thebes, modelled on 
Virgil. Besides the Thebais, Statius composed also an 
Achilleis of which a part only has been preserved, and 
a collection of shorter poems, epigrammatic or panegyric, 
under the title of Silvce. The lines quoted are from 
Theb. I. 717 ff. The commentary is attributed to 
Lactantius Placidus, a grammarian, who seems to have 
lived in the fifth century; but it is almost certainly a 
compilation. 

Justin Martyr : (a) Accordingly in the mysteries 
of Mithra also we have heard that evil spirits practise 
mimicry. For at the initiatory rites bread and a 
cup of water are set out accompanied by certain 
formulae, as you know or may ascertain. 

(b) And when in the tradition of the Mithraic 
mysteries they relate that Mithra was born of a 
rock, and name the place where his followers receive 
initiation a cave, do I not know that they are per- 



40 MITHRAISM 

verting the saying of Daniel that " a stone was hewn 
without hands from a great mountain," x and like- 
wise the words of Isaiah, 2 all whose sayings also 
they endeavour to pervert ? Noteworthy sayings too 
besides these they have artfully contrived to use. 

(c) According to the tradition of the Mithraic 
mysteries initiation takes place among them in a 
so-called cave, ... a device of the evil one. 

The quotations from Justin are taken from Apol. 
I, 66, and Dial. c. Tryph. chs. 70 and 78. The Apology 
is addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, and was 
written c. 150 A.D., probably a year or two earlier; 
Apol. II followed at no long interval. There is nothing 
to fix the date of the Dialogue with Trypho. It is 
generally supposed to be later than the Apologies. The 
year of Justin's birth also at Neapolis, or Nablus, near 
the ancient Sychem, is uncertain. According to Epipha- 
nius he was thirty years of age at the time of his 
martyrdom, but the tradition is uncorroborated, and no 
direct evidence exists. Justin argues that the Mithraic 
rites are a parody of the Christian. 

Lucian : (a) And Attis too, by heaven, and 
Korybas and Sabazius with what a flood have these 
deluged us, and your Mithra with his Assyrian cloak 
and crown, maintaining even their foreign tongue, 
so that when they give a toast no one can understand 
what they say. 

(b) There is Bendis herself and Anubis yonder and 
by his side Attis and Mithra and Men, all resplendent 
in gold, weighty and costly you may be sure. 

(c) Once as with these thoughts I was lying awake 

1 Dan. ii. 34. 2 Is. xxxiii. 16. 



LUCIAN 



4i 



I determined to go to Babylon and there make 
inquiry of one of the magi, the disciples and suc- 
cessors of Zoroaster. I had heard that by incanta- 
tions and magic rites they open the gates of Hades, 
and lead thither in safety whom they will, and 
restore him again to the upper world ... so I arose 
at once, and without delay set out for Babylon. On 
arrival I betook myself to a certain Chaldaean, a 
man skilled in the art of the diviner, grey-haired and 
wearing an imposing beard, whose name was 
Mithrobarzanes. With much trouble and impor- 
tunity I won his consent, for whatever fee he liked 
to name, to be my guide on the way. He took me 
under his charge, and first for twenty-nine days 
from the new moon he conducted me at dawn to 
the Euphrates and bathed me, reciting some long 
invocation to the rising sun, which I did not fully 
understand ; for like the second-rate heralds at the 
games he spoke in obscure and involved fashion. 
It was clear however that he was invoking certain 
deities. Then after the invocation he spat thrice in 
front of me and conducted me back without looking 
in the face of any whom we met. For food we had 
acorns, and our drink was milk and honey-mead 
and the waters of the Choaspes, and we made our 
couch upon the grass in the open air. These pre- 
liminaries concluded he took me about midnight to 
the Tigris, cleansed and rubbed me down and purified 
me with resinous twigs and hyssop and many other 
things, reiterating at the same time the previous 
invocation. Then he threw spells over me and 
circumambulated me for my defence against the 
ghosts and led me back to the house, as I was, on 
foot; and the rest of the journey we made by boat. 



42 



MITHRAISM 



He himself put on some sort of a Magian robe, not 
unlike that of the Medes. And he further equipped 
me with the cap and lion's skin and put into my 
hands the lyre, and bade me if I were asked my 
name not to answer Menippus, but to say Herakles 
or Odysseus or Orpheus. . . . Arrived at a certain 
place, gloomy and desolate and overgrown with 
jungle, we disembarked, Mithrobarzanes leading the 
way, and dug a pit, and sacrificed the sheep, pouring 
out the blood over it. Then the Magian with lighted 
torch in his hand, no longer in subdued tones but 
exerting his voice to the utmost, invoked the whole 
host of demons with the Avengers and Furies, " and 
Hecate the queen of night and noble Persephone," 
joining with them some foreign names of inordinate 
length. 



Lucian of Samosata, c. 120-200 a.d., travelled much 
not only in Greece but in the West, in France and 
Italy, and later in Egypt. His literary work, however, 
was done for the most part in Athens where he settled 
in middle life. His dialogues are satires, directed against 
the popular religions and their gods, and to unmask 
the ignorance which lays claim to the possession of 
knowledge. In language Lucian attempted to repro- 
duce the Attic Greek of literature in an age when this 
had long been superseded by the Koivrj. The passages 
are from the Council of the Gods (®twv StdXoyoi, ch. IX), 
the Tragic Zeus (Zeis TpaywSo's, ch. VIII), and the Menippus 
(MeVi;r7ros, ch. VI). In the last Menippus has been 
disappointed in his quest of wisdom from the professing 
philosophers, and has recourse to foreign magic. 



Tertullian : (a) For nations destitute of all under- 



TERTULLIAN 



43 



standing of spiritual powers attribute the same 
efficacy to their idols; but they cheat themselves 
with springs that yield no living water. For in 
certain rites also of an Isis or Mithra initiation is by 
means of baptismal water. 

(b) Be ashamed as Christ's fellow-soldiers to be open 
to reproach not only from Christ himself but from 
any soldier of Mithra. For to him when he is 
initiated in a cavern, a veritable home of darkness, 
a crown is offered on a naked sword, as if in parody 
of martyrdom ; this then is placed on his head, and 
he is enjoined with his own hand to lift it from his 
head and voluntarily to transfer it to his shoulder, 
declaring that Mithra is his crown. Thereafter he 
is never crowned. And this is regarded as evidence 
of his steadfastness, if ever he is tempted to break 
his oath, and forthwith he is regarded as a soldier of 
Mithra, should he have rejected the crown and 
claimed the god himself as his crown. We may 
recognise the craft of the devil, who counterfeits 
divine things to turn us from our faith and bring us 
into condemnation. 

(c) The lions of Mithra are represented as types of 
an eager and impetuous nature. 

(d) The devil (is the inspirer of the heretics) whose 
work it is to pervert the truth, who with idolatrous 
mysteries endeavours to imitate the realities of the 
divine sacraments. Some he himself sprinkles as 
though in token of faith and loyalty; he promises 
forgiveness of sins through baptism; and if my 
memory does not fail me marks his own soldiers 
with the sign of Mithra on their foreheads, com- 
memorates an offering of bread, introduces a mock 
resurrection, and with the sword opens the way to 

D 



44 MITHRAISM 

the crown. Moreover has he not forbidden a second 
marriage to the supreme priest ? He maintains also 
his virgins and his celibates. 

(e) Those who aspire to initiation first I believe 
approach the father of the ceremonies to learn from 
him the preparations that are to be made. 

Tertullian was born of heathen parents at Carthage 
about the year 150 a.d. and lived to the age of seventy 
or more years. The exact dates of his birth and death 
are unknown. A scholar and a saint, he found in 
Christianity the satisfaction and assurance which the 
philosophy and practice of his day failed to give, and 
his writings are the forceful apologia for his own life 
and thought. The first quotation is from the De 
Baptismo, ch. V; the second from the De Corona, 
ch. XV; the remainder are respectively from Adv. 
Marcionem, I. 13, De Prcescriptione Hcereticorum, 40, 
and Apol. VIII. In the last the reference to the father 
of the ceremonies (pater sacrorum) is usually understood 
of the votaries of Mithra. 

Dion Cassius : I, my lord, am son of Arsaces, 
and brother of the kings Vologeses and Pacoras, and 
thy servant. And I am come to thee as my god, to 
worship thee as I worship Mithra, and I will be as 
thou shalt determine. For thou art my Destiny 
and my Fate. 



The speaker is the Armenian king, Tiridates, address- 
ing Nero. The Roman History ('Pw/AaiVc^ 'la-Topia) of 
Dion Cassius, c. 200 a.d., an elaborate work in eighty 
or more books, preserved only in part, narrated the 
history of Rome from the earliest period to the year 



ORIGEN 



45 



229 A.D. The passage quoted is from the sixty-third 
book, ch. 10. 



Origen : (a) Celsus urges that argument and reason 
compel us to accept certain dogmas, on the ground 
that those who refuse their assent are without doubt 
the victims of error. And he likens those who 
believe without reason to tramps and fortune-tellers, 
to followers of Mithra or Sabazius, or to any chance 
guide, unsubstantial forms of Hecate or other demon 
or demons. 

(6) Celsus following Plato affirms that souls pro- 
ceed to and from the earth by way of the planets . . . 
and further being desirous of exhibiting his learning 
in controversy with us he expounds certain Persian 
mysteries also, and among them the following : 
" These doctrines are contained in the traditions of 
the Persians and in the cult of Mithra which they 
practise. For the latter gives a kind of representa- 
tion of the two heavenly spheres, the one fixed and 
the other assigned to^he planets, and of the journey 
of the soul through these. There is an ascending 
road with seven gates, and an eighth at the summit. 
The first gate is of lead, the second of tin, the third 
of bronze, the fourth of iron, the fifth of mixed metal, 
the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. The 
first is dedicated to Kronus, the lead symbolizing 
the planet's slow motion. The second to Aphrodite, 
the resemblance consisting in the bright and malle- 
able nature of the tin. The third, firm and resistant, 
to Zeus. The fourth to Hermes, in that like the 
iron Hermes is the tireless and efficient worker and 
producer of wealth. The fifth to Ares, because of the 
variable and irregular nature of the alloy. The sixth, 



46 



MITHRAISM 



of silver, to the Moon ; and the seventh, of gold, to 
the Sun, from a comparison of their colours." Later 
Celsus investigates the reason for this definite assign- 
ment of the stars in whose names the remainder of 
the physical universe finds symbolical expression, 
and he expounds further the doctrines of harmony 
in which the Persian theology is set forth. In 
addition to these he is so ambitious as to publish a 
second treatise dealing with the principles of music. 
In my judgement however, for Celsus to propound 
his theory in these is absurd ; it is like his procedure 
in the matter of his denunciation of Christians and 
Jews where he makes irrelevant quotations from 
Plato, and is so far from being satisfied with these 
that he drags in the Persian mysteries as he calls 
them of Mithra also with all their details. For 
whether these things are true or false in the belief of 
those who preside over the Mithraic rites of the 
Persians, why did he choose them for exposition 
and interpretation rather than any other mysteries ? 
for Greeks have no preference for mysteries of 
Mithra rather than those of Eleusis or the traditional 
rites of Hecate which they celebrate in Aegina. And 
why if he felt it incumbent upon him to set forth 
foreign mysteries did he not rather prefer the 
Egyptian, in which many take an interest, or the 
Cappadocian worship of Artemis in Comana, or the 
Thracian, or even those of the Romans themselves 
in which the most high-born senators take part ? 
but if he regarded it as unsuitable to his purpose to 
adopt any one of these on the ground that they 
furnished no support to his denunciation of Jews or 
Christians, how is it that he did not draw the same 
conclusion with regard to his exposition of the 
Mithraic rites? 



CLEMENT 



47 



The quotations are from the Refutation of Celsus, 
I. 9 and VI. 21. Origen was born at Alexandria c. 
185 a.d., and died in his seventieth year at Tyre, where 
also according to the Christian tradition he was buried. 
The Contra Celsum in eight books was one of his latest 
works, written not long before his death. 

Clement : Adonis also they take to represent the 
ripe fruits, Aphrodite birth and marriage, Demeter 
the soil, Kore the seeds, and some regard Dionysus 
as the vine. All explanations of this nature alike 
imply in my judgement a kind of metaphor. Apollo 
is to be regarded as the sun in his course, the offspring 
of Zeus, named also Mithra, as he completes the 
^cycle of the year. 

The Homilies, erroneously attributed to Clement of 
Rome, are usually ascribed to the end of the second 
century, and were originally composed probably in 
Syria. The quotation is from the 6th book, ch. 9-10. 

Porphyry : (a) Our ancestors appear to have 
adorned and consecrated grottos and caves ... so 
the Persians also initiate the novice into the mys- 
teries by an allegorical descent of the souls to the 
lower world and a return, and they use the name 
cave. In the first instance, according to the report 
of Eubulus, Zoroaster consecrated a natural cave 
in the adjacent mountains of Persis, carpeted with 
grass and with fresh springs, to the honour of Mithra 
creator and father of all, in imitation of the world- 
cave which Mithra fashioned, and of the natural 
elements and regions which bore within at regular 
intervals symbolic representations. And after Zoro- 
aster the custom was observed amongst others also 



48 MITHRAISM 

of celebrating their rites in grottos and caves either 
natural or artificial. 

(b) The votaries use honey for many and diverse 
symbolic purposes, because of its variety of pro- 
perties, since it possesses both purgative and pre- 
serving virtue. For by honey many things are 
preserved from corruption and wounds of long 
standing. are cleansed. It is also sweet to the taste 
and is gathered from flowers by bees which are 
regarded as born of cattle. When therefore into 
the hands of those initiated into the lion grade 
honey is poured for washing instead of water, they 
are charged to keep their hands clean from all wrong 
and injury and defilement; the offering of actual 
water to the initiate is avoided as being hostile 
to the fire with its purifying qualities. The tongue 
also is purified from all sin by honey. And when 
honey is offered to the Persian 1 as the guardian of 
the fruits, its preservative virtue is symbolically 
expressed. 

(c) The bowls symbolize the springs, as in the 
ritual of Mithra the bowl is set for the spring. . . . 
Our ancestors used to call the priestesses of Demeter, 
as being an earth goddess, mystic bees, and the 
maiden herself honied ; to the moon also as presiding 
over birth they gave the name of bee, especially 
since the moon is a bulL and the moon culminates in 
the Bull, and bees are bull-begotten. And souls 
when they come to birth are bull-begotten, and the 
god who secretly promotes 2 birth is a stealer of 
bulls. 

1 I.e. the fifth grade of initiation, see p. 61. 

2 The text is \e\r)66Ta>s anovcav which can hardly be right. Of 
the many suggestions that have been made perhaps froydaiv is the 
best : gives aid in birth. 



PORPHYRY 



49 



(d) Our earliest ancestors therefore, before temples 
were invented, used to consecrate to the gods recesses 
and caves in Crete to the Zeus of the Curetes, in 
Arcadia to Selene and the Lycaean Pan, and in 
Naxos to Dionysus. And wherever Mithra is known, 
the sanctuary where he is worshipped is a cave. 

(e) He (i.e. Homer) has not described the entrances 
therefore by east or west or by the equinoxes, i.e. by 
the ram and the scales, but by north and south 
(gates opening to the south being most exposed to 
wet, those to the north to cold), because the cave is 
sacred to souls and the water-nymphs, and the 
regions of birth and death appertain to souls. 
Mithra's own seat however is determined by the 
equinoxes. He bears therefore the sword of the 
ram, the Aries of the zodiac, and rides on Aphrodite's 
bull, since the builds generator and he (Mithra) is 
lord of creation. Moreover according to the equi- 
noctial cycle he is represented with the north on his 
right and the south on his left, his southern hemi- 
sphere being so assigned because of its warmth, his 
northern because of the cold of the wind. And to 
souls that come to the birth and depart from life it 
was natural to assign winds, because they also bring 
with them breath, as some have supposed, and are 
of similar nature. But the north is appropriate to 
those that come to the birth. 

(f) Pallas declares that under the emperor Hadrian 
human sacrifices were almost entirely abolished ; 
and he is the best exponent of the mysteries of 
Mithra. 1 



1 Cp. Euseb., Prep. Evang. IV. 16. 7. It is not implied of 
course that human sacrifice was countenanced by the Mithraic 
ritual. 



5o 



MITHRAISM 



(g) Among the Persians those who are learned in 
the doctrines of the gods and minister in their 
service bear the name of magi. For this is the 
meaning of magian in their native tongue. And 
this class has been regarded among the Persians as 
so great and honourable that Darius Hystaspes had 
inscribed upon his tomb in addition to his other 
titles that he had been a teacher of Magian lore. 
The magi were divided into three grades, according 
to the assertion of Eubulus who wrote the history of 
Mithraism in many books. Of these the highest 
and most learned neither kill nor eat any living 
thing, but practise the long-established abstinence 
from animal food. The second use such food, but 
do not kill any tame beasts. And following 'their 
example not even the third permit themselves the 
use of all. For in all the highest grades the doctrine 
of metempsychosis is held, which also is apparently 
signified in the mysteries of Mithra; for these 
through the living creatures reveal to us symbolically 
our community of nature with them. So the mystics 
who take part in the actual rites are called lions 
the women hyaenas, the servants crows, and of the 
fathers . . . for these bear the names of eagles and 
hawks. He who is invested with the character of 
the lion adopts various forms of living creatures 
the reason of which is said by Pallas in his work on 
Mithra to be the belief in their common life-history 
which extends over the course of the zodiacal cycle • 
and a true and precise conception of human souls is 
set forth in symbol, for these they say pass through 
various bodies. 

Porphyry was a philosopher of the Neo-Platonic school 



COMMODIAN 



5i 



of Tyrian origin born about the year 232 a.d. He 
spent most of his life in Rome and Sicily, and died 
according to the tradition at the age of seventy or 
more years in the former city. The De Abstinentia, 
from which the last two extracts are taken (II. 56, 
IV. 16), is the most important of his philosophical works 
that has been preserved. The other passages are quoted 
from the De Antro Nympharum, a brief treatise more or 
less serious on mythological topics : (a) chs. 5-6 ; 
(b) ch. 15 ; (c) ch. 18 ; (d) ch. 20 ; (e) ch. 24. Porphyry 
moreover seems to be the only writer who makes refer- 
ence to women initiates into the service and rites of 
Mithra, and his allusion is perhaps due to a misunder- 
standing. In the text (g) \cWas, lionesses, should 
probably be read for {Was. The participation of women 
in the ritual was not unknown in the Eastern cults, but 
the predominant military influence in Mithraism seems 
to render it unlikely in this instance. 

Commodian : Whether the invincible, born from 
a rock, is to be regarded as divine — I now pronounce 
no judgement ; it is for you to decide which of 
these has the priority. If the rock preceded the 
god, who then was the rock's creator? Moreover 
you portray him as a thief. Yet surely were he 
divine he would not be guilty of theft. The truth 
is he was of earthly birth and shared the nature of 
the creature, and was always driving off another's 
bullocks in his caves, like Cacus of the story the 
fabled son of Vulcan. 



Commodian was a Christian writer of the third 
century, the author of two works in irregular hexa- 
meters : (1) Carmen apologeticum, against Jewish and 



52 • 



MITHRAISM 



heathen beliefs, composed probably in the year 249 a.d. ; 
(2) Instructiones, consisting of eighty short acrostic 
poems in two books, written perhaps a year or two 
later. The first book is similar in content and aim to 
the Carmen, the second is doctrinal and hortative. The 
poem quoted is the thirteenth of the first book, the 
initial letters of the Latin lines forming the word 
Invictus. The reference to the theft is to the traditional 
story of Mithra's harrying and carrying off the oxen of 
the Sun; see Introd., p. 13 f. 

Arnobius : It is not right to assert or maintain a 
likeness where the main features do not show similar 
lines. . . . The sun is clearly seen by all men to be 
smooth and rounded, but you ascribe to him human 
face and features. The moon is always in motion, 
and assumes thrice ten forms in her changing monthly 
circuit. According to your representation she is a 
woman, with a countenance that does not alter, 
though her daily variation carries her through a 
thousand forms. We all know that the winds are 
pulsations of the atmosphere, set in motion and 
stirred by mundane forces. You give them the faces 
of men with cheeks distended with the violent blasts 
of their trumpets. Among your gods we see the 
grim face of a lion smeared with vine and bearing a 
name reminiscent of the crops. 1 

Arnobius does not name Mithra, but has been sup- 
posed to refer here to the lion-headed form of the 
Mithraic god. The reference is however doubtful. No 
similar description is found elsewhere and the " name 
reminiscent of the crops " is otherwise applied to Saturn ; 

1 Nomine frugiferio. Cumont however would adopt the 
suggestion " frugiferi," i.e. Saturn. 



PSEUDO-CALLISTHENES 



53 



compare the (f>v\.a£ Kapiruv of Porphyry (sup. p. 48). 
The lion-headed god seems however to have been 
identified with Saturn. 

Arnobius, a Christian apologist and rhetorician, com- 
posed seven books, Adversus Nationes, in or about the 
year 295 a.d. The date of his birth is uncertain, but 
he seems to have lived thirty years or more after the 
publication of his apology. The words quoted are from 
bk. VII. 10. 



Pseudo-Callisthenes : (a) I, Darius, king of kings and 
of the race of the gods, consort of Mithra on his 
throne and co-partner with the sun, in my own 
right divine do give these injunctions and commands 
to thee my servant Alexander. 

(b) Alexander the king, the son of king Philip and 
Olympias his mother, to the great king of the 
Persians, king of kings and consort of the sun-god, 
off -spring of the gods and co-partner with the sun, 
greeting. It is unworthy that Darius, so great a 
king of the Persians, exalted with so great power, 
consort of the gods and co-partner with the sun, 
should be reduced to mean servitude to a mere man 
Alexander. 

(c) Alexander then seeing the great pomp of 
Darius was moved almost to worship him as Mithra 
the divine, as though clothed in barbaric splendour 
he had come down from heaven, — such was his 
splendid array. Darius was seated upon a lofty 
throne, with a crown of most precious stones, wear- 
ing a robe of Babylonian silk inwoven with golden 
thread. 

(Syriac) And when Darius saw Alexander he did 
obeisance and worshipped Alexander, for he believed 



54 MITHRAISM 

that he was Mihr the god, and that he had come 
down to bring aid to the Persians. For his raiment 
was like that of the gods, and the crown which 
rested upon his head shone with rays of light and 
the robe which he wore was woven with fine gold. 

(d) The Persians contended with the Macedonians, 
wishing to carry off Alexander and to proclaim him 
as Mithra. But the Macedonians resisted, wishing 
to carry him back to Macedonia. 

The date of the work from which the above extracts 
are taken is uncertain. Callisthenes was a Greek 
philosopher, the friend and adviser of Alexander the 
Great, who was put to death c. 330 B.C. He was the 
author of a history of Greece and other works, none of 
which have been preserved. The legendary story to 
which his name has been attached was put together, 
probably in Egypt, in or about the close of the third 
century of the Christian era. It seems to have circu- 
lated mainly in the nearer east. Translations exist 
more or less complete in Syriac, Armenian, Ethiopic, 
and others, besides a Latin rendering by Julius Valerius 
in the early part of the fourth century. The parallel 
passages of the Latin and Syriac are cited by Cumont, 
but except in (c) present no variations of interest. In 
this passage the parts of Darius and Alexander have 
been reversed. The references are I. 36, 39, II. 14, 
III. 34- 

Passages are quoted also by Cumont from magical 
papyri of approximately the above date, which contain 
the name Mithra and possible references to Mithraic 
figures or ceremonies. They serve to show at least 
that the name was sufficiently well-known and the god 



PAPYRI 



55 



credited with sufficient influence to make it worth while 
to invoke him in incantations and prayer. The first is 
from a magical papyrus text in the national library at 
Paris, which is ascribed to the fourth century : 

(a) Shew me favour, kindly Forethought (i.e. 
Athene) and Fortune, as I write these ancient 
mysteries that we have received, and for my only 
son I beg x the gift of immortality, ye ministers of 
this our great potency. You therefore, O daughter, 
shouldest take the juices of herbs and of species 
which are in thy care in the rite of my holy office. 
For in this 2 the great sun-god Mithra bade me by 
his archangel take part, that I . . . may rise to 
heaven and have insight into all things. And of 
my discourse this is the invocation. . . . 

b king, greatest of the gods, thou sun, the lord of 
heaven and earth, god of gods, thy breath is potent, 
thy power is potent, if it seem good to thee, forward 
me on my way to the supreme deity who begat 
thee and formed thee, for I am the man N. 
Also from a papyrus in the British Museum probably 
of approximately the same date : 

(b) I invoke thee, O Zeus the Sun-god Mithra 
Sarapis, invincible, giver of mead, Melikertes, lord 
of the mead, abraalbabachaebechi. . . . 

It will be seen that there is no definite or certain 
reference to Mithraism. The incantations are of the 
usual form. It is only the mention of Mithra that gives 
to them an immediate interest. 

1 Cumont prints offy. Read probably d£i». 

2 V> th e antecedent appears to be rt\€L although the gender 
is in disagreement. If the reading is right the scribe of the 
papyrus has made a mistake. 



56 MITHRAISM 

Hegemonius : What further then shall I say ? 
You foreign priest and partner of Mithra you will 
worship Mithra alone as the sun, whose light pene- 
trates and illuminates, as you imagine, the secret 
shrines. This worship it is that you travesty, and 
like a clever actor rehearse the mysteries. 

The passage is from the Latin translation of a Greek 
polemical work directed against Manes and his false 
teaching in the earlier part of the fourth century. Of 
the writer himself nothing appears to be known. Read 
probably " coles . . . ? " will you worship, as an 
indignant question. 

Firmicus Matemus : (a) The Persians and all the 
magi who inhabit the borderlands of Persia reverence 
the fire, and give to it the primary place among all 
the elements. These then regard the fire as possessed 
of a double energy, assigning its character, to each 
sex, and expounding the essential substance of the 
fire under the figure of man and woman. The 
woman they represent with three faces and girded 
with huge snakes . . . while in their worship of the 
hero who drove off the bulls they transfer his rites 
to the cult of the fire, as his poet has recorded for us 
when he wrote : 

Mystic priest of the captured bulls, skilful son of a 
noble sire. 

To him they give the name of Mithra, and celebrate 
his rites in secret caves, that shrouded in the dim 
obscurity of the darkness they may shun the touch 
of the pure and glorious light. Truly an ill-omened 
exaltation of a deity ! a hateful recognition of a 
barbarian rule ! to deify one whose criminal acts you 
confess. When you affirm therefore that in the 



GREGORY NAZIANZEN 



57 



temples the magian rites are duly performed after 
the Persian ceremonial, why do you confine your 
approval to these Persian rites alone ? If you think 
it not derogatory to the Roman name to adopt 
Persian cults and Persian laws. . . . 

(b) The pass-word of a second mystery cult of 
foreign origin is the " god from the rock." Why do 
you shame your profession by transferring this 
sacred and revered name to heathen rites ? Different 
indeed is the Stone which God in confirmation of 
his pledged word promised to send to Jerusalem. 
Under the figure of the sacred stone the Christ is 
represented to us. Why this deceitful and dis- 
honourable transference of a revered name to unclean 
superstitions ? ... As for the stone of their idolatrous 
worship of which they use the title " God from the 
rock" what prophetic utterance has told thereof? 
To whom has that stone brought healing or mercy ? 

The Christian writer Firmicus Maternus about the 
middle of the fourth century addressed a tract to the 
Emperors Constantius and Constans, urging the destruc- 
tion of paganism. De Errore Profanarum Religionum, 
chs. IV, XX. 

Gregory Nazianzen : (a) The mutilations of the 
Phrygians distraught with the sound of the flute, and 
the tortures in the temple of Mithra, and the mystic 
cauteries, and the sacrifice of strangers among the 
Taurians. 

(b) Neither the divination of the Magi, nor in- 
spection of the victims, nor the astronomy and 
horoscopy of the Chaldasans . . . nor Thracian orgies 
. . . nor the mystic rites of Orpheus . . . nor the 
painful endurance required of the initiates of Mithra, 



58 



MITHRAISM 



. nor the misfortunes 



nor the mutilations of Osiris 
of Isis, etc. 

(c) The mountain-haunting Bacchants in the train 
of Semele's son, and the ill-omened apparitions of 
nightly Hecate, and the shameful deeds and un- 
rivalled orgies of the Mithraean shrine. 

Gregory of Nazianzus in Cappadocia studied at Athens, 
and was a versatile writer in the middle and latter part 
of the fourth century. The date of his birth is un- 
certain ; it was certainly early in the century. A life 
of stress and anxiety ended in six years of retire- 
ment at Arianzus, where probably he died A.D. 389 or 
390. In addition to his theological works he was the 
author of numerous poems on historical, ethical and 
doctrinal subjects. The first two passages given above 
are from the Orationes IV. Adv. Julianum, ch. LXX., and 
XXXIX. In sancta Lumina, ch. V. ; the third is from a 
hexameter poem Ad Nemesium, VII. 265 ft A few 
words quoted also by Cumont from a later chapter of 
the Adv. Jul. have certainly no reference to Mithraism, 
and the mention of Mithra in the text is probably a 
copyist's error. 

Julian : {a) Were I to tell you next of the reve- 
rence paid to Mithra and the quadrennial games in 
honour of the sun I should be expounding a ritual 
of quite recent date. It would be better perhaps to 
set forth a cult of more ancient times. 

(b) But to thee, Hermes declares to us, have I 
granted the knowledge of Mithra the father. Do 
thou therefore observe his commands, providing for 
thyself in this life a sure cable and anchorage, and 
with a joyous confidence assuring for thyself when 



JULIAN 



59 



thou departest hence the gracious guidance of the 
god. 

(c) Were I also to make reference to the secret 
initiatory rite which the Chaldaean priest celebrates 
for the seven-rayed god, by whose aid he conducts 
the souls upwards, I should be telling of mysteries, 
mysteries at least to the vulgar, but within the 
knowledge of the fortunate hierophants. On these 
matters therefore for the present I will be silent. 

(d) Immediately after the last month of Kronos 
and before the new moon we observe the renowned 
festival in honour of the Sun, celebrating the feast 
to the invincible Sun, after which none of the gloomy 
rites which the last month involves, necessary as they 
are, may be completed ; but in the order of the cycle 
the festal days of the sun succeed immediately upon 
the last days of Kronos. May mine be the good 
fortune often to celebrate and to confirm these by 
the favour of the royal gods, and above others of the 
Sun himself the king of the universe. 



The first and third passages are from the Orationes 
of the Emperor IV. 155 b and V. 172 d. The words of 
the second quotation are supposed to be addressed to 
the Emperor by Hermes at the close of a banquet on 
Olympus, CcBsares aut Convivium 336 c, in which 
Julian satirises his predecessors; the date of com- 
position is 361-2 a.d. The festival to which reference 
is made in the last extract (d) is the annual feast in 
honour of the Sun at the end of the year. The relation, 
if any, of these yearly observances to the Mithraic ritual 
is uncertain. It is derived from Orationes IV., Eis t6i> 
Bao-iXc'a "HXlov, 156 c. Flavius Claudius Julianus was 
born at Constantinople in the year 331 a.d., reigned 

E 



6o 



MITHRAISM 



for two years as Emperor, 361-363, and was killed in 
battle against the Persians in the latter year not far from 
Ctesiphon. In printing these brief extracts from his 
works Cumont notes that it would have been easy to add 
largely to them by including references to solar worship ; 
but these also are doubtfully connected with the special 
cult of Mithra. 

Himerius : {a) At the summons of the Emperor 
Julian he went to the Emperor's camp for the purpose 
of giving exhibitions of rhetoric in Constantinople. 
Prior to the exhibition he was initiated into the 
Mithraic mysteries, and delivered his oration before 
the city and the Emperor who had established the 
rite. 

(b) With heart enlightened by Mithra the sun, and 
by divine grace admitted now to friendship with the 
king the friend of the gods, tell me what discourse 
in the stead of a lamp we should kindle for the king 
and the city. For the law of Athens bids the mystics 
carry a light and sheaves of corn to Eleusis, in token 
of a blameless life. But let our mystics present as 
their thank-offering an oration, if indeed I am right 
that Apollo is the Sun and that discourses are the 
sons of Apollo. 

(c) He {i.e. Julian) by his virtue dispelled the 
darkness which forbade the uplifting of the hands 
to the Sun, and as though from the cheerless life of 
an underworld he gained a vision of the heavens, 
when he raised shrines to the gods and established 
divine rites that were strange to the city, and con- 
secrated therein the mysteries of the heavenly 
deities. And far and wide he bestowed no trifling 
grants of healing, as the sick in body are revived by 



JEROME 



61 



human skill, but unlimited gifts of health. For 
with a nature akin to the sun he could not fail to 
shine and illuminate the way to a better life. 

Himerius was born at Prusa in Bithynia, and practised 
rhetoric in Athens and Constantinople under the 
Emperors Constantius and Julian, in his old age losing 
his eyesight. In addition to Orationes, from which (a) 
is taken (VII. 60, a.d. 362), he composed a Panegyric on 
Julian and Constantinople, of which (b) is the opening 
words ; (c) is from ch. IX. 62. 

Jerome : (a) When a few years ago your relative 
Grascus, whose name bespeaks his noble birth, held 
the office of prefect of the city, did he not utterly 
destroy the cave of Mithra with all the monstrous 
crew that give names to the initiates in their grades, 
the crow, the gryphon, the soldier, the lion, the 
Persian, Heliodromus, 1 and father? These his 
works were pledges as it were sent forward, whereby 
he gained Christian baptism. 

(b) According to the popular legend Mithra and 
Erichthonius were born in a rock or in the ground 
by the unaided passion of lust. 

(c) Eubulus the author of a history of Mithra in 
many volumes states that there are three classes of 
magi among the Persians, the first of which, men 
pre-eminent in learning and eloquence, confine their 
food to pulse and vegetables alone. 

(d) Basilides gives to the omnipotent god the 
uncouth name of Abraxas, and asserts that according 

1 For the name Cumont quotes an inscription from Otourah 
in Phrygia given in Ramsay, Cities and Bishoprics of Phrygia, 
vol. I., pt. ii, p. 566. The name is unknown elsewhere in con- 
nection with the Mithraic mysteries. 



62 MITHRAISM 

to the Greek letters and the number of the cycle of 
the year this is comprehended in the sun's orbit. 
The name Mithra, which the Gentiles use, gives the 
same sum with different letters. 1 

Jerome's evidence is of much importance. He is the 
only author apparently who assigns definite names to 
the successive grades of Mithraic initiates. His ability 
and scholarship enabled him better perhaps than most 
of his contemporaries to understand and report on the 
varieties of cult within the Roman Empire, and his 
statement may be confidently accepted. The name 
Heliodromus is apparently unique also in the literature. 
The extract (a) is from Ep. CVII. ad Lcetam, (b) and (c) 
are from Adv. Jovinianitm I. 7 and II. 14, (d) is from 
Comm. in Amos, V. 9-10. Jerome (Eusebius Hierony- 
mus) was born at Stridon in or about the year 346, and 
died a.d. 420 at Bethlehem. It is worth notice also that 
in connection with the grade of miles, soldier, reported 
by Jerome Mithraism employs the term " sacramentum " 
in the same manner as the Christian writers in relation 
to the Christian rites of baptism, etc. 

Eunapius : After himself there would arise a 
priest to whom it was forbidden to sit upon the 
priestly throne since it was consecrated to strange 
divinities, and mighty oaths had he sworn not to take 
part in strange rites. He declared nevertheless that he 
would take part although not even an Athenian . . . 
and his words came to pass in this way. For at the 
same time that Agoraeus 2 Vettius arose, founder of 
the Mithraic cult, and for no long (period) . . . when a 

1 I.e. MeiOpas = 40 + 5+ IO + 9+ IOO + I + 200 = 365; 
'A^a^at = 1 + 2 -f- iq O + I + 60 + 1 + 200 = 365. 

2 The name is uncertain. Cumont prints ('Ay6f>)tos. 



PRUDENTIUS 



63 



storm of misfortunes, numerous and indescribable, 
had broken. . . . 

Eunapius was a Greek philosopher and historian, born 
at Sardis in 347 a.d. Educated at Athens he taught 
rhetoric there in later life. He wrote brief " Lives of 
Sophists," twenty-three in number, in a spirit hostile to 
Christianity, and also a chronicle or history of events 
from a.d. 270-404. The quotation above is from the 
Life of Maximus, but the text is interrupted and obscure. 

Prudentius : Kindly Guide, creator of the radiant 
light, who controllest the seasons in their fixed 
courses, if thy sun is hidden chaos grim encompasses 
us, restore thy light O Christ to thy faithful followers. 

Though with countless stars thou hast adorned the 
sky in all its grandeur, and with the splendour of 
the moon, yet we go in quest of light from the cleft 
rock, monstrous forms of stony birth. 

May men discern their hope of light enshrined in the 
unchanging body of the Christ, who declared himself 
to be the firm rock, whence our lesser fires have their 
birth. 

The words from Prudentius' KadrjjAcpivwv (scil. fyivwv) 
V. are supposed to contain a reference to the tradition 
of Mithra born from the rock. The association of 
thought is not certain, and the language of Prudentius 
is probably sufficiently explained by Matt. xvi. 18, 
1 Cor. x. 4. The author was born in Spain 348 a.d., 
and his poems and hymns were held in great esteem, 
some of the latter being used in the services of the 
Christian Church. The Cathemerinon, as the name 
implies, is a collection of lyrical poems for the days and 
seasons. 



64 MITHRAISM 

Paul of Nola : What are we to say of their con- 
cealment of the Invincible in a gloomy cavern, and 
that to him whom they shroud in darkness they 
venture to give the name of the sun? He who in 
secret offers homage to the light and hides in the 
shades beneath the constellation of the sky, what is 
he but the author of evil ? 

Pontius Anicius Paulinus, 353-431 A.D., appointed 
bishop of Nola in 409, whence his surname Nolanus, 
was the author of poetical and other works, written both 
before and after his conversion to Christianity. Of the 
Christian poems most are dedicated to the memory of 
Felix of Nola, martyr and saint. The passage quoted 
is from the last of the thirty-six extant poems, and is 
directed against the pagan faiths. 

Augustine : (a) Some counterfeit therefore the 
spirit of which I speak has set up, as though he would 
fain redeem by blood his own image, since he knew 
that by precious blood the human race was redeemed. 
For evil spirits invent for themselves certain counter- 
feit representations of high degree, that by this 
means they may deceive the followers of Christ. 
To such an extent, my brethren, that these very 
foes of ours, who delude by their posturings and 
incantations and devices, mingle with their incanta- 
tions the name of Christ. And because with poison 
alone they are unable to lead the Christians astray, 
they add a little honey, to conceal the bitter taste 
by the sweet, that the fatal draught may be taken ; 
to such an extent that as I understand at one time 
the priest of that mitred god was accustomed to say, 
" the mitred god himself x also was a Christian." 

1 Ipse pileatus, i.e. Mithra, but see Cumant's note. 



AUGUSTINE 



65 



(b) What travesty is it then that they enact in the 
cave with veiled faces ? for they cover their eyes lest 
their deeds of shame should revolt them. Some 
like birds flap their wings imitating the raven's cry ; 
others roar like lions ; others bind their hands with 
the entrails of fowls and fling themselves down over 
pits full of water, and then another whom they call 
the Liberator approaches with a sword and severs 
the above-mentioned bonds. Other rites there are 
which are yet more dishonourable. What shameful 
mockeries for men who call themselves wise. But 
because these things are concealed in the darkness 
they think that they can remain unknown. Yet 
all these, the secret device and contrivance of foul 
and malignant demons, have been dragged to the 
light and unveiled by the holy Christian faith. For 
when the faith is preached the hearers of the excellent 
and sacred truth thus proclaimed have been con- 
verted, and have abandoned those dishonourable 
and secret rites, confessing that in their ignorance 
they have been misled. 

Aurelius Augustinus, 354-430 a.d., was himself in 
early life a Manichaean and therefore acquainted from 
within with forms of heresy nearly related to Mithraism. 
He became bishop of Hippo c. 395 a.d. The Quczstiones 
Veteris et Novi Testamenti, from which the second 
extract is taken, is of doubtful authenticity, and has 
generally been supposed to be the work of Hilary the 
Deacon, about the middle of the fourth century. The 
reference of the first extract is less certain. It is from 
the Tractatus in Joh. Evang. VII. The " mitred god " 
has been supposed to be Mithra, who is so represented 
on the sculptures. In Cumont's judgement it is more 



66 



MITHRAISM 



probable that Attis is meant, and that the reference here 
is to the Kpio(36X.o<s, the sacrifice of the ram in his ritual. 
The two faiths however were in close relation, and it is 
likely that rites and customs were borrowed on both 
sides. 

Dionysius the Areopagite : Accordingly of this the 
sacred records of the Persians make special mention, 
and to the present day the Magians celebrate the 
memorial rites of the triple Mithra. 

The pseudepigraphic writings attributed to Dionysius 
the Areopagite, the convert of St. Paul, Acts xvii. 34, 
date probably from about the end of the fourth century. 
The quotation is from the seventh of a collection of ten 
letters, addressed to Polycarp. The reference is to a 
miraculous lengthening of the day which is said to have 
occurred in the time of Ezekiel. 

Lampridius : With his club he struck down not 
only the lions masquerading in woman's clothing 
and a lion's skin but even many men. Halt and 
lame men he dressed up as giants, so that covered 
with rags from the knees downwards they crept along 
like serpents, and transfixed them with arrows. 
The shrines of Mithra he defiled with human blood, 
judgeing that in this way he would terrorise by deed 
as well as by word. 

iElius Lampridius wrote biographies of several of the 
Roman Emperors, one of which, that of Elagabalus, is 
dedicated to Constantine. Part of his life therefore was 
passed under the latter Emperor. Nothing more seems 
to be known of him. The quotation is from the Vita 
Commodi, ch. IX ; and the words seem to refer to some 
parody of the Mithraic rites, cp. supra, p. 50. 



CLAUDIAN 



67 



Claudian : Fragrant with clouds of incense and 
with sheaves of Sabsean corn the altars ensure peace. 
From the furthest shrines the priests draw forth the 
sacred flame and slay the bullocks with Chaldaean 
rite. The king himself with his right hand tips the 
gleaming bowl, and summons to witness Bel's mystic 
lore, and Mithra who guides the wandering stars. 

At the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth 
century Claudian was one of the greatest of the late 
Roman poets. He wrote numerous poems on historical, 
mythological and descriptive subjects, and a panegyric 
on Stilicho in three books, De Consulatu Stilichonis, c. 
400 a.d., from which the above extract is taken, bk. I. 
58 ff. A few letters also have been preserved. 

Martian : The Latins call thee Sol, for that in 
solitary splendour thou art highest in rank after the 
Father, and from thy sacred head adorned with its 
twice six rays golden beams shoot forth, furnished 
thus, men say, to equal the number of the months 
and the seasons determined by thee. Four steeds 
they relate that thou guidest with reins, for thou 
alone dost control Nature's car. And for that thou 
expellest the darkness, disclosing the bright heavens 
with thy light, therefore they name thee Phcebus, 
revealer of the secrets of the future, or Lyaeus because 
thou dost unloose the hidden things of night. Thee 
the Nile reveres as Serapis, Memphis as Osiris, other 
cults as Mithra, or Dis, or savage Typhon. Thou 
art fair Attis too, and the gentle boy of the curved 
plough, Ammon also of the parched Lybian desert, 
and Adon of Byblos. So under various names the 
whole world worships thee. 



68 



MITHRAISM 



Martianus Capella wrote not earlier than the end of 
the fourth century in prose and verse a work in nine 
books on the liberal arts, to which he gave the strange 
title of De Nuptiis Philologice et Mercurii. A native of 
North Africa he practised rhetoric, apparently at 
Carthage. The above invocation to the Sun is from 
bk. II. 85. 

Socrates : In the great city of Alexander a dis- 
turbance arose from the following cause. There 
was a district in the city, long waste and neglected, 
a receptacle for stores of rubbish, wherein the 
Greeks of old used to celebrate Mithraic rites and 
perform human sacrifice. This vacant site Con- 
stantine had long previously assigned to the Alex- 
andrian Church. Georgius however wishing to 
build an oratory thereon gave orders for it to be 
cleared. In the course of the work a shrine was 
found at a considerable depth, in which were hidden 
the mystical emblems of the Greeks; and these 
comprised many human skulls, both ancient and new, 
whose owners were reported to have been slain in 
olden times, when the Greeks practised divination 
by the entrails and offered magical sacrifices with 
sorcery and deception. The Christians therefore 
finding these in the shrine of Mithra hastened to turn 
the mysteries of the Greeks to open ridicule before 
all. They forthwith formed a procession and 
exhibited the naked skulls to the populace. When 
the Greeks of Alexandria saw this they were inflamed 
with wrath, regarding it as an intolerable insult; 
and availing themselves of any weapon to hand 
they made an attack upon the Christians, and by 
various means destroyed many of them. Some they 



SOZOMEN 



69 



y 



slew with swords, others were killed with clubs or 
stones, and others strangled with cords; others 
again they crucified, employing this manner of 
death in mockery of the cross ; and the greater 
number they wounded. Then also as is the wont in 
such circumstances they did not spare even their 
nearest relatives, but friend smote friend, and 
brother brother, and parents their children, and all 
turned to mutual slaughter. The Christians there- 
fore abandoned the cleansing of the Mithrseum. 
And others dragged Georgius from the church, bound 
him to a camel and tore him asunder, and burned 
both of them together. The king therefore indignant 
at the murder of Georgius wrote a letter and up- 
braided the people of Alexandria. 

The Ecclesiastical History of Socrates in seven books 
was written in the early part of the fifth century at 
Constantinople, where the author's life was spent. 
The history included the period from 306 to 439 a.d. 
His title of Scholasticus was derived from his profession 
as a lawyer. The extract is from bk. III. 2, 3. 

Sozomen : The following event took place in con- 
nection with their so-called Mithraeum. This place 
which had long been waste was granted by Constan- 
tine to the Alexandrian church. When Georgius was 
clearing it for the erection of a house of prayer a 
shrine was disclosed, wherein were found some images 
and the instruments of those who formerly practised 
there initiatory and other rites. These were regarded 
by those who saw them as ridiculous and bizarre; 
and the Christians exhibited them publicly in pro- 
cession in mockery of the Greeks. The latter 



70 



MITHRAISM 



HESYCHIUS 



gathered a crowd together and set upon the Chris- 
tians, arming themselves some with swords or stones 
others with any weapon to hand; and they slew 
many, crucifying some by way of insult to their 
religion, and inflicting wounds on most of them 
Ihe Christians therefore left unfinished the work they 
had begun; and the Greeks with the connivance of 
the queen of Julian killed Georgius. The king him- 
self moreover bears testimony to the truth of this. 

The Historia Ecclesiastica of Sozomen for the greater 
part relates to the same period as that of Socrates 
323 to 439 A.D., and he appears to have relied upon the 
same source or sources. He was born about 400 a d 
and dedicated his History in nine books to the Emperor 
Theodosms II. By birth he is said to have been a 
Christian of Palestine, and later to have studied and 
f'rombfv 11 C ° nStantinople - The P assa g e quoted is 

Proclus : {a) The barbarians call this life-giving 
source the well of life/ the hollow receptacle suggest- 
ing together with the quality of a well the virtue of 
the whole life-giving godhead, wherein are contained 
the springs of all life, divine, angelic, demoniac 
psychical, and physical. 

.u f the ,x^ ne fS S P rin g" lik e (myyatbs), so also is the 
other. What then are we to say? The barbarians 
give to bowls the name of wells (m^aCm*), and so 
they denote individual souls. This bowl therefore 
is a bowl of living water (7r vya h, K parrj P ) ; for it 
is the source of souls, wherein souls. 

(b) They have natures therefore corresponding to 

plaVTon' wo?dt' " Well ~ SOUl ' Hving Sprin *- There is an ^scure 



71 



I- 



the majesty of their native gods. They worship 
Aphrodite, whom they call Isis, and the son of 
Kronos also . . . the sun they address as Mithra. 
Most of them also foretell the future. 

Proclus, the philosopher, surnamed Diadochus 
(StaSoxos), successor i.e. of Plato, was born at Con- 
stantinople 412 a.d., and lived to the age of seventy- 
three or seventy-four years. He studied philosophy 
at Alexandria and Athens, and for many years taught 
and shared in the public life of the latter city, being 
renowned for the powers of his memory. Of his numer- 
ous works the commentaries on the writings of Plato 
are the most important. The extracts (a) are from the 
commentary on the Timaeus, 315. D, F., and the bar- 
barians referred to are supposed to be the followers of 
Mithra; (b) is from a Paraphrase of the four books of 
Ptolemy on the stellar influences, an elucidation of some 
difficulties in Ptolemy's treatise. 

Hesychius : Mithras, the name for the sun among 
the Persians. 

Mithres, the chief god among the Persians. 

Cumont rightly explains the distinction made between 
the two names as a mere confusion on the part of the 
author of the Lexicon. Nothing is known of Hesychius, 
or of his life. It is probable that he lived at the end of 
the fourth or beginning of the fifth century, but by some 
authorities he is placed earlier. His work is certainly 
based upon the statements of earlier writers, grammarians 
and lexicographers, and has been revised and amplified 
by others at later dates. 

The Armenian authors quoted are all attributed to 
the fifth century of our era. Their information is not 



72 



MITHRAISM 



to be considered as first-hand, but is probably derived 
from Greek sources. 

Eznig de Goger : (a) The Magi relate that when 
Ahriman saw that Ormuzd had created many things 
of beauty but had failed to bring forth the light he 
took counsel with the demons saying, " What good 
has Ormuzd secured? these his beautiful works 
remain shrouded in darkness, because he does not 
know how to make the light. Were he wise he 
might have a son Miher (the sun) by his mother, 
and the moon (Mah) by his sister." Then he com- 
manded that this his counsel should not be disclosed. 
The demon Mahmi however when he had heard it 
betook himself immediately to Ormuzd and revealed 
the whole to him. " What folly ! you are clever 
enough to create the earth and the heavens and all 
that is in them, but unable to adopt common means 
like these." 

(b) The story runs that Ormuzd was invited by 
Ahriman to a feast. He came but only consented to 
eat on the condition that their sons were equally 
matched. The sons of Ahriman overthrew the sons 
of Ormuzd, and an arbiter was sought. Failing to 
find one however the two deities created the sun 
to discharge the office. 

Esnik of Kolb, a village near Batoum on the Black 
Sea, is said to have taken part in the translation of the 
Bible into Armenian, and wrote a tract " Against the 
Sects," from which the above extracts are taken, prob- 
ably about the middle of the fifth century. Nothing 
more seems to be known of him. 

Agathangas : St. Gregory made his way without 
delay to the district of Terdjan (in the province of 



ELIS^US VARTABAD 



73 



Erzerum), to make known there the religious teach- 
ing of the Apostles ... he went also to the temple of 
Mihr, the reputed son of Ormuzd, in the town which 
the Parthians call Pakaiaridj, 1 and rased it to 
the ground. The treasures he took and distributed 
them to the poor, and consecrated the ground to the 
Church, confirming the inhabitants in the knowledge 
of the truth. 
Agathangas, or Agathangelus according to the 
tradition, was secretary to the king Tiridates II, and 
wrote a history of his reign, from which (ch. X) the above 
notice is derived. The history is far from being a sober 
narrative of facts, and it is improbable that the tradition 
as to the author's position and office is correct. Cumont 
believes him to have been an Armenian priest of the 
middle of the fifth century. 

Elisceus Vartabad: (a) You have said that God 
was born of a woman ; that should not arouse in you 
repulsion or scorn. Ormuzd also and Ahriman were 
born of a father, but not of a mother. If you reject 
the one statement you cannot maintain the other. 
It is however a most strange thing, that the god 
Mihr should be born of a woman. 

(b) One of your most ancient sages has declared 
that the god Mihr was born of a human mother. He 
is none the less king, son of God, and noble kin of the 
seven gods. 

(c) The gods are benevolent and regardful of the 
human race, if only men acknowledge the greatness 

1 In the Greek rendering the name is given as BayaupiC- It 
seems impossible to determine what place, if any, was intended. 
The same Greek translator names Hephaestus as the deity whose 
temple was destroyed, apparently identifying Mithra with 
Hephaestus, as others also appear to have done. 



74 



MITHRAISM 



NONNUS 



75 



of the gods and their own insignificance, and take 
pleasure in the gifts of the earth distributed by the 
hands of the king, from whose lips proceed the decrees 
of life and of death. Their will is supreme, and the 
sun also should be worshipped, for his rays illuminate 
the whole world, and his warmth sustains man and 
beast. His bounty is bestowed without partiality 
on all, 1 and men name him therefore the Divine 
Mihr, for in him there is neither guile nor ignorance. 
(d) The chief executioner replied : I swear by the 
god Mihr that you speak more rashly than your 
instructors. You are evidently yet more guilty. It 
is therefore impossible to shield you from death 
unless you worship the sun and comply with the 
demands of our religion. 

Elisaeus, the writer, and historian of the war which the 
Armenians waged on behalf of their faith against the 
persecuting king Yezdegird II, 449-451 a.d., is usually 
identified with a bishop of the same name who took part 
in a Synod at Artashat (Artaxata) in the year 449. 
The vizier of the Persian king bore the name of Mihr- 
Nerseh, and the extracts (a) and (b) are from an apology 
addressed to him by Armenian bishops. The third 
quotation gives the words of a Persian official to the 
Christians, the fourth and last invokes the authority of 
Mithra for the sentence against the Christian Martyrs. 

Zosimus : (a) Dry the substance then in the sun 
and preserve it as a mystery not to be revealed, 
which none of the sages ventured to communicate by 
word but only by signs. For it is an indication of 
this that in their esoteric writings they use the word 

1 Cp. Matt. v. 45. 






stone for that which is not a stone, the unknown 
they describe as universally known, the dishonoured 
as highly honoured, the ungenerous as divinely 
bountiful. Let me then also extol heaven's real 
gift, which alone in our daily experience rises above 
the material; for this is the medicine that is potent 
to heal, the Mithraic mystery. 

(b) Aurelian . . . after the capture and destruction of 
Palmyra . . . celebrated a triumph at Rome, and was 
received with the utmost enthusiasm by the Senate 
and people. He built the temple of the Sun also on 
a magnificent scale, adorning it with the votive 
offerings from Palmyra, and set up statues of the 
Sun and Bel. 

Zosimus, the Greek historian, flourished in the middle 
or end of the fifth century. There was also a pope of 
that name who occupied the Roman see from March to 
December in the year 417 a.d. It is improbable that 
either of these was the author of the collection of magical 
charms or prescriptions from which the above extract 
(a) is taken. In the text the words are repeated 
tov aSwprjTov kcu 6eo&uipy)Tov, but it seems impossible to 
reproduce the verbal play or jugglery in English, if 
indeed the repetition is real and not a mere copyist's 
error. The second quotation is from the Historia Nova 
I. 61, but the supposed reference to Mithra is doubtful. 

Nonnus of Panopolis : (a) Turn if thou will thy 
steps to the near country of the Medes ; thither go and 
address the chorus bands of Dionysus. I will show 
thee the land of Bactria, where the divine Mithra 
had his birth, the Assyrian lord of light in Persis. 
For Deriades 1 never learnt to know the race of the 

1 Deriades was the Indian king. 



76 MITHRAISM 

blessed gods of heaven, nor does honour to the Sun 
or Zeus or the chorus band of the bright stars. ... I 
take no heed of the blessed offspring of Zeus ; for the 
twain Earth and Water alone have become my gods. 
(b) With revelry he approached the home of 
Astrochiton * and the leader of the stars, and in 
mystic tones uttered his invocation : Herakles star- 
adorned, king of fire, ruler of the universe, thou sun, 
who with thy far-flung rays art the guardian of 
mortal life, with flashing beam 2 revolving the wide 
circuit of thy course . . . Belus thou art named on the 
Euphrates, Amnion in Libya, Apis of the Nile art 
thou by birth, Arabian Kronos, Assyrian Zeus . . . 
but whether thou art Sarapis, or the cloudless Zeus 
of Egypt, or Kronos, or Phaethon, or many-titled 
Mithra, Sun of Babylon, or in Greece Apollo of Delphi, 
or Wedlock, whom Love begat in the shadowy land 
of dreams . . . whether thou art known as Paieon, the 
healer of pain, or iEther with its varied garb, or 
star-bespangled Night- — for the starry robes of night 
illuminate the heaven — lend a propitious ear to my 
prayer. 

Nonnus, the author of a Greek epic poem in forty- 
eight books, was a native of Panopolis in Egypt. Except 
that he was a Christian, and lived at the end of the 
fourth or beginning of the fifth century, nothing seems 
to be known of his life. The theme of his poem the 
Dionysiaca (Atoi/Do-ia«a) is Dionysus, but it ranges over 
a wide mythological field, and contains little or nothing 
to suggest a Christian origin. Nonnus is credited also 
with the authorship of a paraphrase of St. John's Gospel 

1 Star-bespangled, star-adorned, the epithet of Herakles. 

2 S'ktkoj, read probably S'Qpy, " with thy gleaming car." 



JOHN LYDUS 



77 



in hexameters. The passages quoted are from Dionys. 
XXI. 246 ff., and XL. 365 ff. 

John Lydus : The western region being assigned 
to the element earth it was natural for the Romans 
to take the latter under their care. For this reason 
they appear to have honoured Vesta above all, as 
the Persians the rock-born Mithra because of the 
region of fire, and the dwellers in the north the watery 
element because of the region of water, and the 
Egyptians Isis, meaning the moon, 1 the guardian 
of the entire atmosphere. 

John Lydus, 'Ww^s AaupeWios, was born at Phila- 
delphia, in Lydia, in the year 490 A.D., whence his 
surname of the Lydian. He studied philosophy at 
Constantinople, and became private secretary or 
amanuensis to the Roman prefect, from whom he is 
said to have received marks of distinction and con- 
siderable sums of money. Later in life he devoted 
himself to literature, and wrote poems, none of which 
have been preserved. His work, Uepl M171W %vyypa^, 
or De Mensibus, from which the above extract is taken, 
III. 26, is a historical account of the Roman festivals 
based on older authorities, two epitomes of which only 
are extant. 

Damascius : Epiphanius and Euprepius were both 
Alexandrians by birth, with a profound knowledge of 
the religious observances there practised. Euprepius 
presided over the so-called Persian rites, Epiphanius 

1 Sia tV o-eAfrnv, " on account of the moon," but omit Sid, or 
read perhaps Bta rh nivrpov rfjs o-eA^j/rjs, because of the region 
of the moon, lit. " point " or '* centre." Isis was identified with 
the moon. 



yS MITHRAISM 

over those in which Osiris was honoured, and further 
over those of the god celebrated as the Eternal, of 
whom I might write, but for the present at least I 
abstain. Of these rites also however Epiphanius 
was in charge. 

Damascius is a title, of Damascus, and the real name 
of the author and philosopher who bore the title is 
unknown. He was born about the end of the fifth 
century, and studied and taught Neo-Platonism at 
Alexandria and Athens. His chief works were com- 
mentaries on Plato and Aristotle. The above extract 
however is from Suidas, Lexicon, I. 2, who attributes 
it to " Damascius." The " Persian rites " are those of 
Mithra, and these therefore in the writer's time were 
known and practised at Alexandria. 

Cosmas Indicopleustes : It is reported that to the 
present time the Persians keep the festival of Mithra, 
that is of the sun, in memory of the miracle of the 
time of Ezekiel. 

See above, Dionysius the Areopagite, p. 66. Cosmas, 
surnamed Indicopleustes from his travels, of which he 
has left a most interesting record, was a native of Egypt, 
and spent his early life in Alexandria. He is said to have 
studied under Theodore of Mopsuestia, and in later life 
to have become a monk. His narrative was written 
c. 550 a.d. ; the passage quoted will be found in 165 A. 

Maximus the Confessor : To this the Persians bear 
testimony, when they give to the sun the name of 
Mithra, and thus by their celebration of the memorial 
rites of the " threefold " recall the lengthening of 
that day. 






NONNUS THE MYTHOGRAPHER 



79 



i 



The allusion is to the tradition that in the time of 
Ezekiel the day was prolonged to threefold its usual 
length, see above, p. 66, Dionysius the Aeropagite. 

Maximus, c. 580 to 662 a.d., known as Confessor and 
Martyr, wrote extensively in the early part of the 
seventh century in defence of the orthodox Christian 
faith against the Monothelite heresy. He became abbot 
of a monastery at Scutari in 639, and seems to have 
travelled in Greece and Egypt, suffering persecution 
in later life and dying in banishment. The note above 
is from a scholion attributed to him. 

Nonnus, the Mythographer : (a) Mithra therefore 
the Persians consider to be the sun, do sacrifice to 
him, and observe certain rites in his honour. No one 
can participate in his service without passing first 
through the grades of discipline. These grades are 
eighty in number, with descent and ascent, for the 
tests applied are first of an easier character, then more 
difficult ; and thus after passing through all the 
grades the disciple arrives at perfection. The 
successive disciplinary tests are by fire, by cold, 
by hunger and thirst, by prolonged exertion, and in 
a word by similar trials of all kinds. 

(b) Mithra is considered by the Persians to be the 
sun. And to him they offer many sacrifices, and 
observe certain rites in his honour. No one can be 
initiated into the rites of Mithra without passing 
through all the disciplines and giving proof of self- 
control and chastity. Eighty grades are enumerated 
through which the postulant must pass in succession ; 
for example, plunging first into deep water for many 
days, then throwing himself into fire, then solitary 
fasting in a desert place, arid others also until as 



80 MITHRAISM 

stated above he has passed through the eighty. Then 
finally if he survives he receives the highest initiation, 
or if he has succumbed an (honourable) sepulture. 1 

(c) Different views are held with regard to Mithra. 
Some identify him with the sun, others with the 
guardian of the fire, others with a specific force, 
and certain rites are observed in his honour, especially 
among the Chaldaeans. The aspirants to initiation 
pass through a series of disciplinary grades, under- 
going first the easier forms of penance, then the 
more difficult. For example fasting is first imposed 
upon the neophytes for a period of about fifty days. 
If this is successfully endured, for two days they are 
exposed to extreme heat, 2 then again plunged into 
snow for twenty days. And thus the severity of the 
discipline is gradually increased, and if the postulant 
shows himself capable of endurance he is finally 
admitted to the highest grades. 

Nonnus, whose title is by way of distinction from others 
of the same name, wrote a commentary or scholia on 
the work of Gregory Nazianzen, In Julianum Impera- 
torem invectives duce, from which the first two extracts 
above are derived. His date is uncertain, but he is said 
to have lived in Palestine in the middle of the sixth 
century; more probably a century later. The third 
quotation is from the commentary on In sancta lumitia, 
cp. supra, p. 58. 

Theophylact Simokattes : (a) Gazing up into heaven 
and acknowledging the creator, disowning the false 
gods and placing no hope in Mithra, he averted the 

1 The meaning of the last phrase is not quite certain. The 
text is perhaps imperfect. 

2 ^vadqvai, v.l. fyvQrjvai. Read (eff9j)vai. 



COSMAS 81 

imminent peril, changing faith and fortune to brighter 
issues. 

(b) For lions are subdued, dragons are muzzled, 
Bel and Mithra are put in fetters. 

Theophylact Simokata (Si/AOKernjs), an Egyptian by 
birth, wrote a history of the wars of the emperor 
Maurice a.d. 582-602. Other works of his on scientific 
and literary subjects have been preserved. The reference 
in the first passage, Hist. IV. 10, is to the Persian king 
Chosroes II, who after his defeat in a.d. 590 is repre- 
sented as rejecting the false gods that have betrayed 
him to his ruin. The words of the second extract, 
Hist. IV. 16, are descriptive of the Divine power. 

Cosmas of Jerusalem is the source of the third 
extract from Nonnus, (c) supra, p. 80, and he further 
adds : 

The disciplinary grades of Mithra are reported to 
be eighty in number, through which the candidate 
for initiation must pass in succession. In addition 
to those already described there is immersion in 
water for many days, passing through fire, solitude 
and fasting in the wilderness, and numerous others 
until the end of the eighty disciplines is reached. 
And they do not allow participation in the rites of 
Mithra to anyone who has not passed through all 
the grades and approved himself pure and self- 
controlled. 

Cosmas, known as Cosmas the younger, was a native 
of Jerusalem, and became bishop of Maiuma in Palestine 
in 743 a.d. To him are attributed many hymns and 
other poetical compositions, some of which are found 



82 



MITHRAISM 



in the service books of the Greek Church at the present 
day. 

Moses of Khorene : We swear by the great god 
Mihr that we will not do any harm to thy royal 
throne. 

Late in the fifth century, Moses of Khorene, perhaps 
the most widely known and renowned of Armenian 
historians, wrote a history of Armenia in three parts 
from the earliest period to the fall of the Arsacid dynasty 
in 428 a.d. At a later date the work was either rewritten 
or freely interpolated, for references and names are 
introduced which belong to a period after the death of 
the author. This recension is to be dated in the seventh 
or eighth century. The passage quoted, I. 2. 17, is from 
a letter of the Persian king Sapor to the king of Armenia. 

Theophanes : In this year Galerius Maximianus 
was persuaded by a sorcerer Theoteknos to sacrifice 
to the demons and to receive oracles. Theoteknos 
entered a cave and delivered to him an oracle against 
the Christians in order to arouse persecution. 

Cumont argues that inasmuch as Galerius was an 
adherent of Mithrakm the priest referred to must have 
been a priest of that religion. Theophanes, a Christian 
abbot in the second half of the seventh century, wrote 
a chronicle of events from the accession of the Emperor 
Diocletian, 277 a.d., to the year 811, four or five years 
before his own death in banishment in Samothrace. 
The chronicle is arranged according to years anno mundi, 
of which the extract as given by Cumont is 5794. 

Suidas : The Persians regard Mithra as the sun, 
and offer many sacrifices to him, No one however 



SUIDAS 



83 



can be initiated into his service without passing 
through certain disciplinary grades and approving 
himself pure and steadfast. 

Nothing is certainly known either of the date or author 
of the Lexicon that passes under the name of Suidas. 
The nucleus may have been composed as early as the 
ninth or tenth century, the writer availing himself of 
ancient authorities. Large additions and interpolations 
were made subsequently, the limits of which cannot now 
be assigned. The extract is from Vol. II. p. 847, s.v. 
MMpov. 



INDEX 



'Aboda Zara, 23 
Abraxas, 61, and note 
Agathangas, 72 f. 
Ahriman, 72 f . 
Ahuramazda, 5, 13, 20 
Alexander, Alexandria, 2 7, 

53 f.,68f., 71, 78 
Amshaspands, 29 «. 
Anubis, 40 

Aphrodite, 24 f., 45, 47, 49, 71 
Apollo, 47, 60, 76 
Armenian, 71 f., 74, 82 
Arnobius, 52 f . 
Aryan deities, 5 f . 
Asia Minor, 7, 10 
Athenseus of Naucratis, 25 f. 
Athene, 55 

Athens, 58, 60 f., 63, 71, 78 
Attis, 40, 66 f . 
Aurelian, 75 
Avesta, 19 ff. 

B 

Babylon, Babylonia, 13, 76 

Bactria, 75 

bees, 48 

Bel, Belus, 75 f., 81 

Boghaz Keui, 5 

Buddha, 14 

bull, in Mithraism, 13 ff., 23 f., 

37 f- 48 U 52 



Celsus., 45 ff. 
£h.aldae t ajo.» 57, 59, 80 



Christianity, relation to Mith- 
raism, vi, 1 f., 4, 16 f., and 
passim. 

Claudian, 67 

Clement, 47 

Commodian, 51 

Comparative Religion, vi. 

Constantine, 66 

Cosmas Indicopleustes, 78 . 

Cosmas of Jerusalem, 81 

Cumont, R, v, 17 f., and 
passim. 

Cyrus, 25 



D 



Damascius, 77 f. 

Daniel, 40 

Darius, 28, 50, 53 f. 

Demeter, 48 

Deucalion, 35 

Dieterich, A., v 

Diocletian, 82 

Dion Cassius, 44 

Dion Chrysostom, 31 

Dionysius the Areopagite, 66, 

78 f. 
Dionysus, 75 

discipline, grades of, 79 ff., 83 
Duris, 26 



Eleusis, 60 

Elisseus Vartabad, 73 f . 
Epiphanius, 40, 77 f. 
Eubulus, 50, 61 
Eunapius, 62 f. 



85 



86 INDEX 

Ezekiel, 66, 78 f. 
Eznig de Goger, 72 



Firmianus Maternus, 56 

flood, 35 

forgiveness of sins, 16 



Galerius, 82 

Gathas, 5 

Georgius, 68 f. 

Greece, 8 f . 

Gregory Nazianzen, 57, 80 

Gregory, St., 72 

H 

Haoma, 30 

Hegemonius, 56 

Heliodromus, 61 

Hephaestus, 73 n. 

Herakles, Hercules, 15, 42, 76 

Hermes, 45, 58 f . 

Herodotus, 24 f. 

Hesychius, 71 

Himerius, 60 

Homer, 31, 49 

honey, 48, 64 



I 

Initiates, initiation, 48, 50, 61 

Isaiah, 40 

Isis, 43, 58, 71, 77 



J 

Jerome, 61 f. 

John Lydus, 77 

Julian, Emperor, 3, 9 f., 59 ff. 

Justin Martyr, 39 



K 



Ktesias, 25 



L 



Lactantius Placidus, 39 
Lampridius, 66 
life, future, 3, 16 
literature, 17 f. 
Lucian, 40 

M 

Magi, 31, 36, 41, 50, 57, 72 

Manes, 56 

Manichsean, 65 

Martian, 67 f. 

Maximus, the Confessor, 78 f . 

military colonies and agency, 

7f., 13; symbolism, 43 
Mishna, 23 f. 
Mithra, Mithraism, passim : 

extent, 9; worship, 10 ff.. 

49; decay, 16 f.; symbolism, 

1 1 f . ; Mithra born of a rock, 

39 f- 
monothelite, 79 
Moses of Khorene, 82 

N 

Neo-Platonism, 78 

Nero, 44 

Nonnus of Panopolis, 75 f. 

Nonnus the Mythographer, 79 

O 



Origen, 45 
Ormuzd, 72 f . 
Orpheus, 57 
Osiris, 37, 58, 67 



Palmyra, 75 
papyri, magical, 55 f. 
Paul of Nola, 64 
Pentateuch, 15 

Persia, Persians, 6, 25, 28, 37 f., 
45 f., 5°. 54, 56 f., 66, 77 ff. 
Phrygia, Phrygians, 57 



INDEX 



S 7 



Plato, 45, 71, 78 
Pliny, 29 
Plutarch, 28 ff . 
Polycarp, 66 
Porphyry, 47 ff., 53 
Poseidon, 34 f . 
Proclus, 70 f . 
Prudentius, 63 
Pseudo-Callisthenes, 53 
Ptolemy, 71 

Q 

Quintus Curtius, 27 



Strabo, 26 f . 
Suidas, 78, 82 f. 
symbolism, 13 ff. 



Tertullian, 42 ff. 

Theodore of Mopsuestia, 78 

Theophanes, 82 

Theophylact Simokattes, 80 f . 

Tiridates, 44, 73 

torch-bearers, 14 

trade-routes, 8 



R 

Resurrection, 3 f. 
Rock, Mithra born of a, 39, 51, 
57, 63 



Sabazius, 40 
Sarapis, 55, 67, 76 
Saturn, 52 
sculptures, 10 f. 
Shamash, 13 
Socrates, 68 f . 
Sozomen, 69 f . 
Statius, 36 f . 
Stoics, Stoicism, 36 



Varuna, 19 
Vesta, 77 



Water, 48 



W 



X 



Xenophon, 25 



Zarathushtra, Zoroaster, 6, 47 
Zeus, 32 ff., 45, 47, 49, 76 
Zosimus, 74 f. 



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Jewish Documents of the Time of Ezra 

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The Wisdom of Ben-Sira (Ecclesiasticus) 

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Translations of Early Documents (continued). 
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The Assumption of Moses 

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The Biblical Antiquities of Philo 

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The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament 

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Selections from Josephus 

By H. St. J. Thackeray, M.A. 5s. 

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The Book of Joseph and Asenath 

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THIRD SERIES— Palestinian-Jewish and 
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The Sayings of the Jewish Fathers (Pirke 

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Tractate Berakoth (Benedictions), with intro- 
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Tractate Sanhedrin. Mishnah and Tosefta. 

The Judicial procedure of the Jews as codified towards 
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Kimhi's Commentary on the Psalms 

(Book I, Selections). By Rev. R. G. Finch, B.D. 7s. 6d. 



Select Passages Illustrating Neoplatonism. 

Translated with an Introduction by E. R. Dodds, 
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Jewish Literature and Christian Origins : 

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The Uncanonical Jewish Books 

A Short Introduction to the Apocrypha and the Jewish 9 
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Barnabas, Hermas and the Didache 

Being the Donnellan Lectures, 1920, by J. Armitage 
Robinson, D.D., Dean of Wells. 6s. 

The Acts of the Apostles 

Translated from the Codex Bezae, with an Introduction 
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Wilson, D.D. 3s. td. 

Pistis Sophia 

Literally Translated from the Coptic by George Horner. 
With an Introduction by F. Legge, F.S.A. 16s. 

4 



Translations of Christian Literature 

A NUMBER of translations from the Fathers have already 
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Dionysius the Areopagite: The Divine Names and 
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The Library of Photius. By J. H. Freese, M.A. 
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Tertullian against Praxeas. By A. Souter, D.Litt. 
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Tertullian concerning the Resurrection of the Flesh. 

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Novatian on the Trinity. By H. Moore. 6s. 

St. Augustine : The City of God. By F. R. M. Hitch- 
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St. Bernard: Concerning Grace and Free Will. By 

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The Life of Otto: Apostle of Pomerania, 1060- 1 139. 

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Anskar, the Apostle of the North, 801-865. By 

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By De Lacy O'Leary, D.D. is. gd. 

7 



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The Liturgy of the Eighth Book of the Apostolic 
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The Pilgrimage of Etheria. By M. L. McClure. 6s. 

Bishop Sarapion's Prayer- Book. By the Rt. Rev. J. 
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The Swedish Rite. By E. E. Yelverton. 8s. 6d. 

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The Apostolic Preaching of Irenaeus (Armenian). By 

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The Latin and Irish Lives of Ciaran. Translated and 
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St. David. By A. W. Wade-Evans. 7s. 6d. 

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The Eucharistic Office of the Book of Common Prayer. 

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14 



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22. The Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. 

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33 English Social Life in the Eighteenth Century. 

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36. Select Passages Illustrative of Neoplatonism. 

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15 



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The Copernicus of Antiquity (Aristarchus of Samos). 

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Josephine Butler, and her work for Social Purity. 

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